Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Our Independence Day

My brother Jeff and sis-in-law Dana hosted their annual 4th of July party!
Eleven of their thirteen children were present. Left-to-right: Ashley, Hayden,
Brinley, Justin, Burke, Callie, Elsie, Jeff, Marcus, Dana, Haley, Emma, and Micah.
Missing were Amber (vacationing in California) and Jamison (who lives in Texas).

And here's a quick look at the craziness behind the posed scene...

Almost every year for many, many years, my brother Jeff and his wife Dana have invited all family and friends, and family of family and friends of friends, to join them at their home on the Fourth of July for a barbecue potluck, homemade ice cream, and fireworks. In the beginning, it probably started as a somewhat smaller gathering, but it has grown over the years. I have to applaud their bravery and endurance, because it's no small undertaking!

My nephew Burke and my brother Jeff oversee the grilling.

Besides the fun of getting together with loved ones and feasting on delicious food, a big draw for this annual event is that Jeff and Dana live right behind Show Low High School. This is where the big, local fireworks extravaganza is presented every year (except those years when we're under severe fire restrictions, of course, since we're surrounded by national forest). The show starts at 8:30 and begins with music and ground-level fireworks, which we can't see from Jeff's yard, obviously. However, right about 9:00 the sky almost directly overhead fills with a spectacular display of colorful explosions. And we get to watch from the comfort of camp chairs or blankets on the ground, rather than hard benches in the bleachers.

Among the first to start filling their plates: Ashley's husband Matt;
Dana's sister Jona; and Dana's mom and stepdad, Cheri and Dee.

The official starting time for the family gathering is 5:00-ish, but in reality people come and go throughout the evening. I'm willing to bet there were well more than fifty people there last night. Most of the attendees were relatives of Dana's, but they've become like family to us, as well, since we've known them since Jeff and Dane were married in 1983. That's a long time!

The potluck table is the place to be! The chicken was grilled to perfection!

The first event, naturally, is always the food! Along with the variety of salads and chips and other sides brought by guests, Jeff and Dana provided grilled chicken, hamburgers, and hot dogs for everyone. Dana bought forty pounds of chicken! Jeff and their son Burke (who's becoming quite the chef--I know because he's cooked for me before!) grilled it all up perfectly in Jeff's new smoker.

My contributions to the potluck: a red-white-&-blue cheesecake fruit salad
(on the left) and my mom's traditional potato salad, chock-full of vegetables. 

Once the food was ready, we all filled our plates and settled in for a nice long visit until dark. While the adults chatted, the many children in the group (along with some of the young-at-heart adults) played games and chased each other around. I loved to watch them. It brings back so many memories of playing with cousins and friends at similar gatherings during my growing-up years.

Dana's mom, Cheri (otherwise known as "Nana"), and Dana's sister Kara.

If you know me, you know how I spent those waiting hours. I chatted with everyone here and there, too, but I also wandered around with my camera to capture some of these memories. I tried to catch everyone I could, but I know I missed some. It's unintentional, but I always seem to miss someone. It's hard to keep track of who all was on the other side of the lens throughout the night. To those I missed, my apologies.

Dana and her daughter Hayden find a moment to sit.

Mark and Sarah find a place among our many grand-nieces and -nephews.

My son-in-law Chris takes a seat to chow down.

My nephew Micah (on the left) with his friends Daine and Martin.

Three of my lovely nieces: Emma, Hayden, and Haley.

My nephew Justin and his wife Jessica.

Dana's niece Emily, her husband Michael, and their two sons.

Two pregnant ladies at the buffet: Dana's niece Emily and Dana's sister Tahna.

Lots of eating, chatting, laughing, and playing fills the afternoon.

Sarah loves those babies! This is Ashley's baby, Adelynn.

My nephew Burke dishes out the ice cream: pistachio or cherry?

As dusk fell upon us, the ice cream freezers shut off and the ice cream was dished up. I don't care that much for store-bought ice cream, but homemade ice cream is something else altogether. Just try to keep me away! It was warm enough outside that I didn't hear anyone complaining about brain-freeze or getting a chill from their cold, creamy cups of goodness. And it's a great way to pass the time until the fireworks begin.

Hanging out in the dark, waiting for the fireworks to start.

Finally, at exactly 8:59, the fireworks began bursting in the air overhead. It was a wonderful 25-minute program that we all savored, with "Oohs" and "Ahhs" heard all around. The only thing that would have made it better for me would have been if my son Dylan could have joined us. He didn't get off work until 9:05, so he didn't make it. Otherwise, it was perfect. (But my pictures were far from perfect, so no fireworks photos on the blog this year; at least, not from me...)

Meanwhile, in Utah...
Danielle and Jacob at an Independence Day Celebration in Lehi, Utah.

Not long before we were enjoying the fireworks extravaganza in Show Low, Arizona, my son Jacob and  his wife, Danielle, were watching their own local fireworks presentation with her family in Lehi, Utah, at a place called Thanksgiving Point. Danielle thoughtfully sent us these photos to enjoy.

Fireworks at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, Utah.
(A much better capture than the shots I got...)

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