Monday, July 8, 2019

Small Town, Big Fireworks & Bagpipes

We've jostled in Sydney's tight, choppy anchorage a stone's throw from the Opera House to see the best fireworks in the world. Heckuva a New Year's goodbye bash for our boat, s/v Journey in 2017.

How does that compare to the small town of St. Helen Oregon's celebration and fireworks? 
Flags up and down the main drags of St. Helens for the 4th of July.

US flags up and down the streets. A go-cart. A skateboarder. 
Not much traffic for this St. Helens skateboarder to worry about.
The town and all the town folk done up in a swirl of red, white and blue.
St. Helens town square "birthday cake;" 243 years for the US, 130 for the town.
A newly minted US citizen and marina neighbor playing the bagpipes. 
Robin kicked off the early eve, piping aboard his boat.
His US citizenship was in part spurred by his desire to buy his sailboat.
Fireworks a few hundred yards from our boat. Amidst the parties, ultimately the two of us most loved a burger on the barbie, corn on the cob , ice cream for dessert and oohing and ahhing at the fireworks together aboard the good ship Serendipity.
St. Helens Marina gussied up for the 4th of July, too. The marina was hoppin' for the holiday.
Sydney's fireworks are world-beater iconic; brag-book material. Yet I'll count St. Helens small town 4th of July celebration as the sweeter memory, from and for the heart.

On a more serious note.... 
Given our travels outside and across the US, I spent a good chunk of time around our nation's birthday celebration pondering a "report card" of our country's "life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness." I found it fascinating.

If you're interested, lemme know and I'll make it a future post. 

For now, though, I just wanted to share a little piece of small town Americana joy. Happy birthday, US! While the actual designated day for celebrating our nation's independence is past, its impact is still writ large inside and beyond our borders.

However you celebrate your nation's birthday -- enjoy! 

Location Location
We spent July 4th at St. Helen's Marina. We are currently back on the hook off of Sauvies Island, N45 47.473 W122 47.199, about 5 miles further inland on the Columbia River. There's a broad, long sandy beach a short dinghy ride away and we have it largely to ourselves. 


  1. I’m with you sister. I grew up in a small town and spent my childhood either in the parade or watching the parade. In our travels up and down the Eastern ICW we saw a lot of small town celebrations of this or that. The pie judging, the parades, the flags, and yes, the fireworks. Were the Sydney fireworks spectacular? Hell, yeah! But small town American summer holidays are as warm and wonderful as it gets. Add in the corn on the cob, the garden grown tomatoes, the kick back feeling, and you have the thing that we miss when we’re far from home. I’m appreciating your homecoming vicariously. Thanks.

  2. What a perfect trade!

    We miss immersing ourselves in other cultures and perspectives and love reading about your and Jack's continued adventures, treading lightly on the land and at the same time connecting powerfully on a personal level.

    I grew up in a bland 'burb, rife with strip malls and franchises, thus I'm charmed by the character small towns can develop. Traveling cross country, we saw too many small towns that became ghost towns, so we appreciate those giving their all that much more.

    Seems the challenge whether traveling near or far is to develop a keen eye for what makes each place and the people in it special. You and Jack do that beautifully. Thank you!

  3. Hi Dana, Josephine and I are in the US for a conference. Spend the 4th of July at Newport Beach, CA, and we were both amazed with the patriotic demonstrations everywhere we went. Cheers, Peter

  4. Southern California would be yet one more excellent place to enjoy this country's birthday celebration. Wayne grew up in that area. I grew up in Northern California.

    Did the marine layer ease off enough for good fireworks?

    In Australia and New Zealand, I loved observing the Anzac ceremonies, which struck me as much more sincerely celebrated than Memorial Day is here in the States. Not a fireworks thing, but really powerful and so well embraced across the generations.

    In any case, wishing you an awesome visit here in the States! Great to hear from you.


    PS Bagpipes are not typical for the 4th.