Published in the July 4 – July 17, 2018 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Kathy Sullivan

Kathy Sullivan waves from a Morgan Hill Downtown Association float in the 2016 Independence Day Parade in Morgan Hill. Photo by Marty Cheek

Kathy Sullivan

One of the nicest things about living in Morgan Hill is how everyone comes out to celebrate the Fourth of July. When I lived there, I used to joke that half the town was in the Freedom Fest Parade and the other half was watching it. Now I live in Philadelphia, which was the start of America’s birthday celebration. The City of Brotherly Love is advertising: “Nobody does the 4th like those who did it first.” I would have to respectfully disagree.

I remember as a mother of young children watching the parade for the very first time. We had moved from Philadelphia to Morgan Hill less than a year previously. I did not know what to expect. Imagine my delight in seeing such an enthusiastic mix of adults and children walking to the cheers of a population bigger than the town. It seemed like every child was in a dance class or karate school.

It was our first time hearing the award-winning Live Oak Emerald Regime and other school bands. My children were delighted by the beautiful horses and costumed riders. The local businesses, churches, youth groups, hand-built floats; fancy cars and farm equipment rounded up the parade. It was a living piece of America at its summertime best.

Morgan Hill Life file photo
Bob and Maureen Hunt put on the Morgan Hill Independence Day Parade for more than three decades.

As the years progressed my family moved from viewing the parade to be active participants. I recall walking behind my son’s karate class — I enjoyed it more than he did. When I was on the Morgan Hill Unified School District board I had the added thrill of riding in the old fire truck with my fellow board members and our families. My daughter, Julie, who was uninterested about my being on the school board, found this one perk something we looked forward to each year. We took our picture together in back of the truck every year. Those pictures showed the progression of her growing up and me growing out. My husband and son looked on and waved at us from Rosy’s at the Beach those years.

Meeting so many local dignitaries was a big thrill. I have fond memories of talking to our late beloved Mayor Dennis Kennedy before he was driven off in his fancy car. He beamed with pride about his city and enjoyed every moment of the Independence Day celebrations. I always was impressed with the number of politicians who choose our town to visit on the holiday.

We, of course, had our own valued local VIPs. The first time I saw the fabulous couple, Bob and Maureen Hunt, they were wearing impressive ribbons indicating every year they had volunteered and spearhead Morgan Hill’s parade. Since they have continued this valuable service with their warm hearts and generous nature, the ribbon is now quite an astounding sight.

Karen Crane, who I have always referred to as a genuine Morgan Hill treasure, constantly made me cry at the July 3 Patriotic Sing. Not only did she coax music out of our children, but the respect she showed to our military servicemen was heartfelt and genuine. As she would walk up to give a hug to the standing men from each branch of service, well, I was not the only one in the room with wet eyes.

Other happy recollections include laughingly trying to keep up the flag routine the other ladies of AAUW did so well as we marched along, all while trying to keep my new white pants from falling down. As a member of the Morgan Hill Downtown Association, I was helped build a float based on the big blue chair our board president, John McKay, helped build for the Pop-up Park. Riding in brightly colored Adirondack chairs with good friends and seeing so many of my neighbors was a highlight of my Freedom Fest experiences.

I haven’t even got to the part about the dance, runs or the best show of fireworks around. One summer we had people over for a barbecue and decided on a ridiculous and dangerous plan on climbing up on our roof to view the fireworks without the crowds. Not only did we not see the show, we spent a good 10 minutes just laughing at our stupidity as we sat there before climbing to safety. On one of my last Morgan Hill Fourth of July fireworks, I was at a lovely party up in the Holiday Estates hills watching the fireworks below with many of the special people in my life.

Even though “Philly” did the Fourth first, my attachment to the Freedom Fest is so tied up with why I love Morgan Hill. I love the joy felt when community comes together to embrace the best of our common ideals. As members of the human race, we can all agree that our freedoms afford us the luxury of being able to love this country and the hard work it took to take us here.

Kathy Sullivan is a former Morgan Hill resident. Last year, she moved back to her hometown of Philadelphia. She wrote this column for Morgan Hill Life.

 

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