Patriotic Fun

Some of you may know, I’m a big fan of rodeos. I have been since I was a little girl because of the 4th of July.

Every summer, the sleepy little town closest to our farm would burst to life for four days with the biggest event of the year – the 4th of July celebration. I can’t even tell you how old I was before I figured out the 4th of July was supposed to represent a single day, not a time of year.

Some towns might go all out for Christmas or Halloween, maybe even Easter. But our small town had the 4th of July. Apparently, going all out for Independence Day is something they’ve done for more than a century.

The four days of fun generally included four nights of rodeo, games and activities in the park, and a parade. Fireworks generally took place  the night of the 4th. There was also a Suicide Race, most often right before the second night of the rodeo.

The town boasted a saddle shop owned by a wonderful, kind man who also tended to enjoy a good joke from time to time. When I was four, my dad took me to Leroy’s shop to get a new belt for the rodeo. I remember walking inside, holding tightly to Daddy’s hand as the rich scent of leather filled my nose.

While Dad and Leroy talked, I wandered around the store, looking at saddles and boots, running my little fingers over the smooth leather of bridles and the rough texture of new ropes. Then I spied the belts. Dad let me pick the one I wanted – a floral stamped leather belt with a silver buckle. On the center of the buckle was a little gold saddle. I still have that belt today and whenever I look at it, I smile, recalling fond memories from both going to town with my dad and going to the rodeo.

Anyway, my family was big into the 4th of July celebration. We usually went to the rodeo at least once, sometimes twice. Quite often one or more of us would be in the parade. My oldest brother and his wife often rode their horses or drove a wagon in the parade. My other brother frequently entered one of his antique cars. I remember one year Mom helped me make an early 1900s costume so I could ride with him. I played In the Good Old Summertime on the piano about fifty times in a row and recorded it on our tape player, then we blasted that from a boom box in the car as we drove down the street (yep, that was back before you could loop songs on your smart phone!).

Back in those days, my oldest brother and one or more of my cousins would ride in the Suicide Race. If you’ve never seen or heard of one, in a nutshell, a group of riders with more courage than I could ever muster race down a harrowing trail to see who makes it to the bottom first. The race starts at the top of a butte with a blast of dynamite and ends in the rodeo arena across the river. It’s a 2-mile course down the hill, across the highway, through the river and into the arena. If a rider makes it off the butte, many of them end up taking a swim in the river.

Eventually my brother stopped racing and his kids took over as competitors. My niece was the first girl to race, starting when she was just 16. She rode five years, and won it twice.

Here you can watch the race from a competitor’s perspective. If you skip ahead to about the two-minute mark, it’s when the race begins.

Thanks to my childhood, I still feel that same excitement when the 4th of July rolls around. Even though we moved away many years ago, I still think back on those holidays with great fondness and nostalgia.

I think that’s why, if I have a book that includes the summer months, I often work in a scene of a parade or rodeo.

One of my favorites is this excerpt from my sweet historical romance, Bertie.

Enjoy an excerpt!


Bertie smiled and slipped her arm around his, drawing him closer into their rowdy group. Together, they watched the parade. The sheriff served as the grand marshal, flanked by Lars and Kade. They made such a striking duo as they rode their horses down the street, waving to the crowds. Three other deputies rode behind them.

“There’s my daddy! There’s my daddy!” Brett and Ben yelled, joined in their cheers by all of Lars and Marnie’s children.

Bertie giggled when Sophie nearly lurched out of Marnie’s arms, begging to go with her father. “Please, Mama, ride with Daddy. I wanna ride with Daddy!”

“No, Sophie. Not today. You just stay right here with me and watch the parade. Look, see the little pony cart coming? Isn’t he pretty?” Marnie tried to distract her daughter, but the child fussed and squirmed.

Bertie’s mouth fell open when Riley stepped over to Marnie and held out his arms to the child. “Mind if I hold this little sweetheart for a while?”

“Not at all, Riley. Maybe she’ll settle down for you.” Marnie handed over Sophie with an indulgent smile.

Sophie stared up at the man she’d only seen a few times. She leaned back in his arms and studied him. A tiny finger traced down his straight nose, across his cheeks and over his bottom lip. She grinned and sighed, wrapping her little arms around his neck, knocking his hat askew. “I like you.”

“I’m glad to hear that, Miss Sophie. I like you, too.” Riley reached up and straightened his hat, then turned so he once again stood beside Bertie with Sophie perched on his arm. He kept the little girl entertained and engaged during the parade.

Bertie marveled at his ease interacting with the child. He seemed confident, as if he had experience in handling fussy little ones. From past conversations, she knew Riley was an only child. Curious, she wondered where he’d gained his knowledge of keeping a little one content.

Perhaps he was one of those people who just naturally took to children. If so, it made her like him even more.

The “burrrrrooom boom boom boom” sound that Bertie recognized as Nik’s motorcycle rumbled down the street. He appeared riding his bike, followed by a group of bicyclers including several young women wearing bicycle bloomers.

“Looks like Nik finally got his harem,” Tony joked, nudging Garrett with his elbow.


Just for fun, here are a few patriotic puzzles to enjoy!




And a jigsaw puzzle!

What about you? Do you have any fun memories from 4th of July celebrations, or even summer memories as a child?

Wishing everyone a beautiful weekend full of fun and joy!

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After spending her formative years on a farm in Eastern Oregon, hopeless romantic Shanna Hatfield turns her rural experiences into sweet historical and contemporary romances filled with sarcasm, humor, and hunky western heroes.
When this USA Today bestselling author isn’t writing or covertly hiding decadent chocolate from the other occupants of her home, Shanna hangs out with her beloved husband, Captain Cavedweller.

33 thoughts on “Patriotic Fun”

  1. In 1976, I remember a huge celebration at our small airport over several days and watching the fireworks. This was in Delaware.

    Visiting my grandparents in Tennessee, I remember the wagon train coming through several years in a row around the 4th.

  2. Good morning and Happy 4th of July. Our family always went to The Texas Cowboy Reunion o. Stamford Texas. Here’s a link about it.
    My dad always competed in the calf roping and the Double Mugging. The best memories I have of my childhood is this week long time we spent there. I think my years went from the TCR to the TCR, each year. I loved being there riding, camping, and having the best time in the ranch it was held at. The last time I went was in 1994, right before I moved to KS. It’s hard to believe I’ve not been in 28 years.
    Like you, I remember everything about the 4th and wished I was young again and experiencing this fun time again.

    • Hi, my friend! I love that you have those special memories too. I agree to my childhood years going from the 4th of July rodeo to the next! So glad you had those fun days as a child, and so neat your dad competed.
      Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could go back for just one more day during our childhood. 🙂
      Have a spectacular 4th of July!

  3. My little town has held a big 4th of July celebration since the mid-1900s. There’re carnival rides all week, street dancing, concerts, a beauty pageant, a big parade, street vendors, and fireworks, as well as other assorted activities. People come from all over, and those who left their hometown often choose to visit over the fourth.

  4. I would love to see that race! This is something I would have totally tried in my younger days. Thanks for the games. I really enjoyed them.

    • It is such an exciting race to watch, especially when we had family members involved. So fun you would have done it in your younger days! Have a beautiful 4th of July weekend!

  5. Yes the reservoir close to where I lived as a child is celebrating 50 years this year of setting off fireworks over the water! I also remember having the handheld sparklers and my sister stepping on a hot one one year!

    • I love seeing fireworks on the water. It just magnifies the spectacular spectacle! Oh, no to your sister stepping on a hot sparkler. Ouch! Hope you have a fantastic celebration this year, Teresa!

  6. what a wonderful post today. welcome and thanks for sharing your time growing up. I grew up on a farm and two towns over from us, they did the same thing. It was a week long event. so fun. we took our animals there and slept in a tent. it was all so fun and there was soooo much to do and see. being in 4-H we took some animals with. I got to ride my palomino in the barrel racing competition for those in 4-H. Wow I loved the speed Goldy could give. but at the same time she was a huge friend. When I fell off she would stop and turn around and stand by me. that week will always be etched in my brain.

    • Hi Lori,
      Oh, that’s fantastic you got to sleep in a tent and show off your animals as well as barrel race. How exciting! It sounds like Goldy was a special, special horse, and you made some lovely memories with her. So glad you had that lovely time in your childhood!

  7. When I was growing up, my small hometown in California really celebrated July 4th. It was, and still is, a huge deal. The whole community participated! There was a big parade down Main Street and then, lunch & activities in the park. Other things were going on around the town too but some people just went home & had family parties in their backyard. However, in the morning, it was all about the community! I was in the parade every year as a young child and enjoyed it so much! I miss those special days.

  8. The Fourth of July I remember the most is the one where two of my sisters, both of their hubbies, two or three of my nephews, and I went out on the Indian River on a boat and watched fireworks between the Eau Gallie and Melbourne Causeways. We had some of the best “seats” and so did many others out on their boats!

  9. Hi Shanna, what beautiful memories you have of your younger years and of the time you got your belt for the rodeo and wow how special that you still have it! <3. When I was growing up our parents always made sure we had fire works for the 4th of July. We also had hamburgers and hotdogs and it was always alot of fun, there were 6 of us and pretty close in age, our youngest sister is 7 years younger than I and I am #4 . My mom and dad always made our birthdays and all the Holidays very special. Thank you for sharing your beautiful memories with us. And yes, I have heard of the suicide race , sounds a little scary.

    • It sounds like you had wonderful childhood experiences that made beautiful memories too! So fun you and your siblings are close in age! And the suicide race is scary, but what an experience to watch it! Happy 4th of July to you!

  10. Wow Shauna that video was totally awesome!! I haven’t risen in over 40 years and that brought me back. Thank you so very much for the memories. Now that I am 70 years old I am unable to ride. But I love horses. I would love to go back to the 1800’s!

    • That’s so fun you used to ride. I did too, but haven’t in ages! It would be fun to go back to the 1800s – at least for one day! Have a wonderful holiday! <3

  11. I’m not exactly sure what makes a tractor pull seem patriotic (shrugging)…but when we visited our cousins in Iowa we liked to watch our uncle back his tractor up on Main Street and hoped he’d win. I do think we had little flags to wave so that might have covered the holiday aspect…

  12. Many years we would go to Lake George Village for the fireworks display over the lake.The lake sits between mountains and the loud booms would echo off the hills. They were really loud! Unfortunately the area became a place for older teens and twenty something’s to gather and drink. What had been a great family event became a time for the sheriff mounted patrol to police the beach and streets. Those years we stayed home and celebrated with sparklers.

    • It sounds like the fireworks displays on the lake would have been nothing short of spectacular. So sad that tradition came to a halt, but nice you could celebrate at home! Have a wonderful 4th of July!

  13. Happy 4th of July. As a child, we would go to my aunt and uncle’s. They lived near the water in a small suburb of our town. The family would gather for a cookout. At dark, we would go to the end of their street to watch the fireworks. Thank you for sharing. God bless you.

  14. No childhood memories of note, but one from several years ago. When our grandson was 15 or so we took him on a 4 week tour of the West. We happened to be staying in a hostel on the mountain near Whitehorse, Montana on July Fourth. They told us the best view of the town fireworks was from a picnic area half way down the mountain. We did have a great view of the town and the prairie stretching in front of us. The town fireworks were nice, but actually overshadowed by a private display in town. Evidently some football team owner has a home there and always has company for the holiday and puts on his own super fireworks show. The really nice thing was we could see the fireworks in the small towns scattered across the prairie. They were tiny in the distance, but it was a lovely site.

    Thank you for the fun puzzles. I hope you and your friends and family have a wonderful weekend.

    • That is so neat, Patricia, that you got to see all the fireworks displays. How fun – especially for your grandson! What a wonderful thing to take that trip with him!
      Wishing you a beautiful weekend full of lovely moments! Happy 4th of July!

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