Marking the Fourth With a Turtle Race

by admin | July 4, 2014 1:25 pm

Today is the Fourth of July, of course, when Americans celebrate their independence by barbecuing, drinking copious amounts of libations and getting sunburned. I spent much of the morning helping orchestrate the annual Daily Tribune Turtle Race, in which about 55 youngsters competed for cash prizes, certificates and bragging rights. Everybody got a T-shirt, and the weather out at Dellwood Park was perfect.

Roughly 150 folks in all were on hand to cheer on the turtles. The race, created by my predecessor, involves running several heats with a half-dozen turtles in each heat. The kids place the turtles, many of which have been decorated for Independence Day, inside a washtub with the bottom cut out. I taped off an 8-foot square on the stage with blue painter’s tape and put the washtub in the middle. After shouting, “On your mark, get set and go!” I lifted up the tub. The first turtle to cross the blue tape on any side won the heat. Then all the winners of heats competed for the top three places.

We had an usually frisky group of turtles eager to get away. Each heat had at least a couple turtles ready to get the heck off the stage. Very few turtles stayed inside their shells. A prize was awarded for Most Patriotic Turtle as well. The kids were pretty ingenious with their shell decorations, and the turtles do not appear to be the worse for wear. It was a sweet, fun event and a Mount Pleasant tradition that we will continue in summers to come.



We recently returned from a trip to New York City and Boston. In the latter, which has long been my favorite city in which not to live, my wife, daughter and I took a trolley tour. One can hop on-and-off at will, so it is a great way to see the historic sites that are an integral part of this city. Faneuil Hall was built in 1742 and served as a meeting place for the revolutionaries. Samuel Adams and others delivered fiery speeches calling for action against the British in this building. Now the first floor is a mini-mall, while the second floor still serves as a meeting place.

Across the street is the Old State House. On July 18, 1776, people gathered below the balcony to hear the Declaration of Independence read publicly for the first time in Massachusetts. It took a couple of weeks to get copies printed. Now, every year on July 4 the Declaration of Independence is read from the balcony. In 1976, on the 200th anniversary. Queen Elizabeth II visited and gave a speech to her country’s former subjects. That was quite generous, given how the war turned out for her predecessor on the throne.

The Boston Tea Party took place in 1773 when a group of colonists dressed up as Indians and dumped a load of tea in the harbor to protest the Tea Act and taxation without representation. The actual site, like much of Boston, has been reclaimed from the water. It is now concrete and asphalt, with a marker at Congress and Purchase streets. But a Tea Party Museum a few blocks away gives tourists a chance to chunk tea crates in the harbor. Luckily for the sea creatures, the crates are fastened to ropes and hauled up after each excursion.

The famed Boston Pops will perform tonight in the clamshell stage along the Charles River, accompanied by the Beach Boys. Fireworks will conclude the event with a bang. As a child growing up in New Hampshire, we watched this on television nearly every Fourth of July. Some year soon, I hope we are in the audience on the Fourth. There is something about being in this historic, charming city on America’s day that is really special. I’m just glad Independence Day doesn’t come in January. I fear my blood has thinned too much for New England’s winter weather.

Of course, our cities and towns will celebrate the Fourth in their own fashion today, many with fireworks and patriotic music. Four years ago, we spent the Fourth in Junction City, Kansas, where I was running the paper. Junction is a military town, home to Fort Riley. That night, even though there was no planned fireworks show, the entire town of about 20,000 erupted with store-bought fireworks going off everywhere. We climbed up on the roof of the house and watched for a couple of hours as residents shot off all manner of pyrotechnic projectiles. It sounded like a battle scene from a movie, and the air filled with smoke. I’ll never forget that.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone, and God Bless America.

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