The Fourth of July is more about duty than barbecues and fireworks – at least to many who celebrated on Sunday.
Robb Loeb, for instance, was working the crowds at Riverfront Park, persuading folks to register to vote. He was volunteering for the state Democratic Party, but said he wasn’t discriminating in his work.
“I feel a sense of pride being out here on Independence Day,” said Loeb, a recent Eastern Washington University graduate. “We’re just making sure everybody can vote. I can change their minds later.”
Nearby, the Tea Party of Spokane was hosting a free speech stage where anyone was welcome to spout off on any topic as long as participants kept comments to five minutes.
Dan Selle, a Tea Party leader who helped organize the two-day event, said the party sent invitations to all candidates in the August primary – even those who likely won’t get much support from the conservative group.
“We felt that on the Fourth of July, it’s more of the peoples’ day,” he said.
Those who accepted invitations included Democratic candidates Louise Chadez, Bob Apple and Andrew Jackson and Republican candidates Jeff Holy, David Stevens and John Ahern.
Early Sunday afternoon at Finch Arboretum, Tom Westbrook was preparing for the 48th “Freedom in the Arboretum” gathering and picnic.
Westbrook, who founded the event, has liberal leanings, but the event attracts Republicans, Democrats and others.
“It’s open to everybody,” Westbrook said. “I don’t care what their political views are.”
Like every year, the main event scheduled was the recitation of the Declaration of Independence, read by a few dozen volunteers.
“It is not a matter of turning up the volume. We don’t need more ‘rah, rahs.’ We need well-founded commitment,” Westbrook said. “We need to be reminded that those who signed that document weren’t horsing around. They put it on the line.”
At the Coeur d’Alene City Park, patriotism took on more relaxed forms. Families played badminton and Frisbee, and kids played on the beach as thousands of people waited to watch the fireworks over Lake Coeur d’Alene.
Jeremy and Jenny Duncan had pitched a tent next to a blanket, where friends and family members were spread out. The couple’s daughter, 8-year-old Jackie, had marched in the Fourth of July parade in the morning with her Girl Scout troop. Shortly afterward, the Duncans staked out a spot to watch the fireworks.
“We tried to come last year, but we had to turn back,” Jenny Duncan said. “We were too late and they had closed the streets off.”
In addition to a cooler full of food, the family brought along books and board games to keep the kids occupied. The couple’s son, 2-year-old Jacub, fell asleep during a stroller ride on Tubbs Hill.
Hanging out in the park was a mellow way to celebrate the nation’s birthday, said Jeremy Duncan.
Coeur d’Alene Police Officer Tom Sparks was on duty in the park, but he stopped for a moment to admire the Miss Budweiser hydroplane on display in front of North Idaho Museum.
The 1968 boat, whose 2,000 horsepower engine can rev to speeds of 190 mph, is on loan to the museum from the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum in Kent, Wash. It triggered fond memories for Sparks, who grew up in Seattle and remembers watching hydroplane races in the 1960s and 1970s on Lake Washington.
“It was absolute celebration for boys,” Sparks said. “They were such daredevils. That was the decade of daredevils.”
Leora and Richard Varney of Spokane Valley also came to watch the fireworks, bringing a tailgate picnic supper for their daughter and her family.
But the couple’s Fourth of July also involved some quiet reflection. Earlier in the day, the Varneys found a pull-out near the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge on Interstate 90. They prayed for the nation, gave thanks for their son-in-law’s safe return from Iraq and remembered the soldiers who didn’t make it back.
“We wanted to honor the people who gave up their lives for our freedom,” Leora Varney said.