Independence Day meant more than sizzle and bang to Kansas City area residents.
In addition to backyard grilling and evening fireworks, patriotic songs, impromptu parades, historic readings and pig calling marked area celebrations of the nation’s Fourth of July birth.
Three-year-old Guiseppe Padley was one of those hearty pig callers at the Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead annual contest in Overland Park. He was visiting from Rogers, Ark., and knows a thing or two about what he was calling. His school, a Montessori program, just got a pig.
Contest emcee Laura Miller awarded each caller with a toy pig, and there were many.
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“Here, piggy, piggy, piggy” one caller said. “Hi, piggy piggy,” hollered another, which Miller immediately declared a welcome and polite pig call.
John and Kristen Sander of Olathe took their 19-month-old son, Michael, to experience early Americana at the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Farm Historic Site in Olathe. There’s a real stagecoach to ride, and all three signed, or at least marked an X, on the Declaration of Independence at a station manned by Uncle Sam himself.
“We came to hear songs and learn about America that way,” John Sander said.
Victoria Estle of Leavenworth listened as Uncle Sam, also known as Michael Maslak, led those waiting for stagecoach rides in song, including “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
“We learned those in school. I wonder if kids today learn any of those songs,” Estle said to Maslak.
A crowd gathered at the porch of the old home as Tim Talbott stood in period clothes to read the Declaration of Independence. Upon completing the reading, Talbott asked for and got three cheers for America.
That was Ed Schons’ cue, and the crowd turned its attention to the cannon. With the crowd repeating “fire in the hole,” Schons pulled the firing mechanism and the cannon blasted a loud salute to the nation.
Musketry was in store for visitors at the morning flag-raising ceremony at Missouri Town 1855 in Jackson County. Old Glory was hoisted on a wooden flag pole near the re-created historic town’s tavern.
“We usually fire a couple of rounds in salute to it,” said Don Bailey, the town’s blacksmith of 17 years.
Bailey was dressed as a gentleman for the Fourth and wore a cap from the nation’s war with Mexico. He said that in 1855, the Missouri border residents were bracing for violence closer to home.
“We weren’t yet fighting with Kansas, but things were uneasy,” Bailey said.
Richard Orrison marked Monday’s holiday by playing patriotic and playful songs on a hammered dulcimer at Missouri Town. Among his repertoire were “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Uncle Sam’s Farm.”
Fireworks still dominate most celebrations, and they held the night. By 9:30 p.m. the line of cars entering Richard L. Berkley Riverfront Park for the annual Riverfest fireworks display over the Missouri River stretched more than a quarter mile.
Thousands turned out for food, music and a fireworks display bursting over the water. Liz Hurnack, 30, of, Independence, was far from the only one dressed in patriotic garb, an American flag dress that stretched from head to toe and set off by bright red lipstick and a red headband.
“Memorial Day is coming up. And the Olympics. I can wear it for that, too,” she said.
Last year, Abi Rodriguez had seen the fireworks exploding over the water as she drove on the highway. This year, the 20-year-old from Kansas City, Kan., perched along the river’s edge with her brother Jose Rodriguez, 17, and friends Deby Padilla, 14, Amy Padilla, 23 and Genesis Garcia, 16.
“We’re not even sure where they’re going off,” she said of the display, choosing what would end up being a perfect seat.
Fireworks also helped support many area organizations that turn the holiday habit into funding for all kinds of activities. The fireworks stand at Life Christian Center in Lee’s Summit is the church’s biggest money-maker of the year, the Rev. Bill Virgin said.
“From the beginning, when Lee’s Summit said you can have tents, we started the first year,” Virgin said. “It’s our big everything.”
For patriots who missed Monday’s late displays, the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Farm is holding its 19th century style fireworks display Thursday evening.