Downtown Longview and Lake Sacajawea on Wednesday were once again filled with patriotic music, banners and clothing as the annual Go 4th Festival brought the community together to mark the birthday of American Independence.
For recent Longview transplant Gale Scott, witnessing the Go 4th parade this year for the first time brought tears to her eyes.
“It feels like home. It’s a hometown parade,” she said. “I chose to leave Seattle because it was too busy. This type of thing was impossible to get to and enjoy. The pace here is nice. You can take time for each other.”
Scott, 47, said the Fourth of July reminds Americans to look at how far the country has come and where it still needs to go to reach the ideals of the Founding Fathers.
“It feels like we’ve lost a sense of humanity,” she said. “We may do things differently and look different, but underneath all that, we all want to be loved and heard. So the Fourth of July feels like connecting with each other.”
As dance teams, marching bands and candidates for public office paraded down Washington Way, Skamokawa 15-year-olds David Thompson and Cadence Guest danced to the blaring music.
Cadence said her favorite part of the holiday was seeing carefree people in the crowds and in the parade.
“(The parade) is fun. You can get into it if you want to, but you don’t have to. I think that’s independence in itself right there,” she said with a grin.
Her friend, David, said his hope for America in the next year was for people to stop arguing.
“It’s like a dog fight right now,” he said. “Everyone is always at someone else for something.”
As the last floats made it to Lake Sacajawea and the last hard candies skipped across the streets, thousands of spectators made their way to the food tents at Hemlock Plaza and the nearby flea market.
Chuck Rucker, who was checking out the vendors along Nichols Boulevard, said he traveled up to Longview from Arizona to spend the holiday with his family.
Rucker said he served in the U.S. Army from 1967 to 1989. It’s important to remember those who have died in military conflict and celebrate those who are still serving today, he said.
“To see other vets (celebrating Independence Day) who have made it through the years, it means a lot,” he said.
Rucker added that he is pleased with President Donald Trump’s support of the military and that he hopes to see increased enforcement measures at the Mexican border in the next year.
Ken Smith, 69, said it is important to celebrate the Fourth of July because he saw many countries in the South Pacific while serving in the Navy from 1968 to 1972 that didn’t have the same freedoms as Americans.
“We need to keep the freedoms that we’ve got. Our tendency is to try and take some freedoms away,” Smith said. “We have to remember that most of us have ancestors that come from somewhere else. With the exception of the Native Americans, we are a nation of immigrants.”
Smith said he also wants to keep freedoms like the Second Amendment right to bear arms, but that there needs to be a way to control those who don’t know how to use guns or have anger issues.
Meanwhile, Ruth Muchai, an international student from Kenya studying at Lower Columbia College, said she “loved” the patriotism she saw during her first time at Go 4th.
“Celebrating is important because it reminds us of how far we’ve come and our roots. And why we should value independence and not take it for granted,” Muchai said. “I would like to see America continue the way it is and also become more accepting.”
Kenya has its own Independence Day, called Jamhuri Day, that has some similarities to the Fourth of July like participation from political leaders and performances, she said. But Muchai said activities like the Timber Carnival Competition, which honors Longview’s history as a logging community, are unique features to American Independence celebrations.
From lawyers to teachers, and from people in their 20s to their 70s, a diverse group of lumberjacks and lumberjills chopped, sawed and scurried up logs as part of the annual Timber Sports competition.
Australian underhand champion Gerald Youles said he traveled from Queensland to Longview for the Go 4th competition on his way to the championship competition in Wisconsin later this month.
Back home, he celebrates with his country on Australia Day and military veterans on ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) Day, he said.
“To have a future, you need to remember the past and use it to decide where to head next.”