Point in History: July 1904
By Kris Leonhardt
Since the United States declared its independence in 1776, its citizens have been celebrating its sovereignty. As suggested in the words of our second President, John Adams, “It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”
In July 1904, it looked like the pomp and celebration might be ruined by Mother Nature. As heavy rains pelted the city the night before, residents woke up to a cloudy and gloomy Monday morning. Children and adults alike feared the worst.
As the clocked ticked its way closer to 9 a.m., the clouds began to break apart. As sunshine filled the sky, July 4 began to transform into the perfect day.
A cannon salute fired near the Jackson Mill signaled the start of the day, as thousands lined the city streets for the parade.
A Union band led the way through the city streets. Twenty-two strong and dressed in their summer whites, they passed by respectful adults and eager children to signal the start.
Following the Union band, came fire department members, along with their hose carts and hook and ladder truck.
Marching behind them were city and school officials, followed by a float of small school children. On the float sat 45 young girls representing the 45 states of the Union, minus Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska, and Hawaii who were not yet part of the United States.
Next, came a fully operational blacksmith shop and the Knights of the Maccabees, a local fraternal society who later transitioned into an insurance company, leading a steady stream of decorated wagons and walking entries advertising businesses and important citizens.
As the parade came to a close, residents gathered in the city square for a patriotic program and lawn games consisting of tug of war, a sack race, a three legged race and a wheel barrow race.
In the evening, the crowd assembled for a fire run put on by the Stevens Point Fire Department, a toy balloon ascension and band concert.
The epitome of the day’s events was the grand display of fireworks that burst through the air at dusk, reflecting off the Wisconsin River and signaling our freedom and unity as citizens of our country.
Each year, our communities gather for fireworks, parades concerts and gatherings to celebrate the Fourth of July. Though the fads change and our country continues to progress, at the heart of it, our celebrations remain the same.
Kris Leonhardt may be contacted by mail: P.O. Box 51, Marshfield, Wisconsin, 54449 or email: [email protected]