Highland marks the fourth

At the Highland Fireworks Celebration last Sunday evening: Erwin, Tracy and Rachael Kitzweger; Andrea, Kiersten, Madison and Gianni Reyes; James, Laura, Angela and Stephen North. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Hot and humid weather with some rain didn’t appear to dampen the enthusiasm of the hundreds of attendees who streamed into Town Park in the hamlet of Highland on Sunday evening, July 2 for a picnic-style event culminating in fireworks.

By 7 p.m. the field was filled with families having picnics while they waited for the evening’s grand finale. Some brought food from home, with others opting for the food vendors on site, like Vineyard Avenue’s Elia’s Catering Company & House of Sausage, who dished out hamburgers, hot dogs and sausage and peppers. Sweet Memories offered a number of sugary options, from cake pops to candy necklaces to chocolate-covered popcorn. The food truck from Lakeside Licks had a steady line of customers waiting to buy ice cream cones, and lemonade was in the mix, of course, as were tacos and quesadillas, with fried dough taking pride of place.


Whether it was from the sugar or just natural kid-powered energy, there seemed to be kids in movement everywhere one looked. They cartwheeled with abandon and jumped with sheer pleasure in the bouncy castle. And several dozen kids wearing their white “gi,” students from the hamlet’s Bushiken Karate Skinner Dojo gave a spirited karate demonstration alongside their adult counterparts.

Shihan Mike Skinner, who owns and operates Bushiken Karate (formerly World Oyama Karate) frequently participates in the hamlet’s events by offering demonstrations. Always as personable as he is accomplished in his discipline, Skinner led his group through age-appropriate activities culminating in the popular and always impressive breaking of wood with bare hands.

The music otherwise played continuously throughout the event was temporarily silenced in order to give Skinner and his troops the opportunity to show their stuff. When they finished, the program returned to alternating live music by A Touch of Rhythm and recorded tunes and emceeing by DJs Rick Knight and Tony Flash from Mix 97.7 FM.

Use of the bouncy castle was donated for the evening by Highland’s “A Day in the Shade” tent and jump rentals on Vineyard Ave. The ticket cost of $3 was a donation to help further Highland’s new library-in-progress, which even in the beginning stages of its construction is showing considerable signs of what it’ll have to offer over on Elting Place. The Friends of the Highland Public Library were on hand Sunday night to sell the bouncy castle tickets and run the popcorn machine, with the $2 price ticket for that also supporting the library construction.

Kids also had the opportunity for artistic face-painting by Meltz Art and henna tattoos applied by The Tipsy Turtle, another frequent participant in Town of Lloyd events.

Less fortunate kids weren’t forgotten, either, as the Iron Riders motorcyclists club sold 50/50 raffle tickets with proceeds benefitting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and a “Christmas in July” toy drive for the Ronald McDonald House was held by the high school’s Interact Club.

Town of Lloyd Police were a visible presence on the scene, courteous and keeping all there safe.

The Town of Lloyd Independence Day celebration put on in the hamlet of Highland every year is thanks to the Highland Business Association and the town Events and Beautification Committee, headed by the energetic Kate Jonietz and her able crew of AnnMarie Meisel, Stephanie Fraino, Christina DeMaio, Lauriann Marion, Natasha Gasparro and Kate’s husband, Adolf Jonietz.

Celebrating Independence Day on a day other than the Fourth of July has become the norm in these parts, with fireworks and festivities in the Hudson Valley spread out from the last day in June all the way to mid-month (Montgomery’s Freedom Fest will be held Saturday, July 15). And if you look back to one of the original patriots, John Adams, Highland’s celebration on July 2 occurred on exactly the correct date.

Adams, a leader of the American Revolution who became our country’s first vice-president and the second president, thought July 2 was the date appropriate to recognize our independence because it was July 2 when delegates at the Second Continental Congress assembly in Philadelphia officially separated the 13 American colonies from Britain by approving a motion for independence. The following day Adams wrote a letter to his wife Abigail predicting that July 2 would be celebrated by succeeding generations as “the great anniversary festival.”

July 2 “ought to be commemorated,” he wrote, “as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

But July 4 was the date the actual Declaration of Independence — whose principal author was Thomas Jefferson — was adopted (although not signed) by members of the Continental Congress, so it was the Fourth of July that became the federal holiday.

That didn’t stop Adams from continuing to believe throughout the rest of his lifetime that we were celebrating our independence on the wrong date. Supposedly, he even turned down requests to appear at July 4 Independence Day events in protest. But in the end, fate had the final word, when oddly enough, Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826: the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.