A step back in time for the holiday

America is a changing and changed place.

What began as a collection of ragtag colonies inhabited by European immigrants is now a thriving superpower with immigrants from all corners of the globe. Our technological and industrial advancements have made us the focus of economic envy and admiration, and increasing party-line politics has made us more divided than united on a day-to-day basis — but we’ve still proven to have the ability to come together as a people when our national sports teams do well or tragedy strikes close to home.

We’re a different America today than in the past, but still very much the same. We still hold our individual rights and liberties dearly. We still will stop and help a stranger. We still value friends and family. We still turn to faith when facing questions. Though our outward appearance is drastically changed from our humble roots, our core is still essentially the same. We’re Americans.

And if there’s one day of the year that brings our roots back to the forefront, its the Fourth of July. We eat hot dogs. We wear flags on hats and on lapel pins. Children still ooh and aah over the fireworks. And Bethany Beach still does a patriotic hometown parade as well as anybody.

This year’s parade will fall on Monday, July 5, which also serves as the national holiday. It will kick off at noon at the Christian Church Conference Center and snake around through much of downtown. Yes, there will be crowds and parking will be at a premium, but if you can get downtown for this event, do it. There are plenty of places to get a good view of the parade, and it’s annually an event that is certain to bring a smile to spectators’ faces.

The grand marshal of this year’s parade is U.S. Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), who is a direct descendent of Benjamin Franklin, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and one of the true forefathers of this nation. Floats bearing patriotic messages, children on their bicycles and six marching bands will also parade through downtown Bethany.

And the fun does not end with the parade.

There will be the annual horseshoe-throwing competition following the parade on the southwest corner of the Christian Church grounds, as well as the return of the popular pie-eating contest. This is small-town Americana at its finest, and is certain to fill every heart with waves of nostalgia and maybe a few moments of pure joy. It is a great escape from the hustle and bustle of modern America, and a rare window into a simpler past.

This year’s fireworks display will be held downtown at dusk on Sunday, July 4. Again, this is one of those precious moments to just enjoy celebrating this nation while enjoying the beach. It doesn’t get much better than that.