July 4th has always been one of my favorite holidays. Growing up the son of a WWII veteran dad and a bleeding mother in red, white and blue, I had no choice. To this day, great memories remain of fantastic family celebrations … picnics with barbecued ribs, fried chicken, baked beans, homemade pies and the greatest Independence Day delicacies: watermelon and homemade ice cream!
Last year we had a quite different 4th of July here in Natchez. Due to the COVID pandemic, many events were canceled, but we still managed to enjoy the weather in the outdoors and the fireworks over the river were gorgeous as always.
This year we’re going from one extreme to the other – from what was literally last year’s smallest event to what now should be the biggest and best Independence Day celebration that the city has to offer. de Natchez had ever seen. Thousands of people will fill our hotels, shops and restaurants as we gather on the cliff to welcome legendary artists Hank Williams, Jr., Steve Earle and many more.
After a long season of crowd and covid restrictions, Natchez will host the first and largest outdoor event of its size in the state, and quite possibly the entire region this weekend!
With all the fun and festivities, let’s not forget why we are celebrating. We owe more than we could ever give to the men and women of our armed forces who sacrificed everything so that we could enjoy the peace and prosperity of living in this United States of America. Even this weekend, as we revel in the fun, soldiers are watching all over the world to make sure America is protected.
It has been a pleasure to get in touch with many of the veterans that we have here locally. On the first Monday of each month, the Mayor’s Task Force for Veterans meets to discuss issues of importance to local citizens who have served our country. I’ve heard from members of the VFW, the American Legion, and Homes with Heroes. These organizations are doing remarkable things not only within the city limits of Natchez but also in our region. Whether it’s the flag retreat, helping veterans in need, operating a veterans clothing bank, or a host of other programs, these patriots give freely of their time to help others.
As we enjoy the safety of the celebrations at home this weekend, there are currently 165,000 active-duty members of the U.S. military serving in more than 150 countries. Some serve on air bases in Western Europe, others on Navy ships in Southeast Asia, and some on bases in the middle of the desert in the Middle East. For many, it has been months, if not years, since they spent an evening with their spouse, played ball in the backyard with their children, worshiped with their congregation at their church, or enjoyed a backyard barbecue. with friends.
Throughout the weekend festivities, let’s take the time to remember the sacred service these soldiers render and recite a prayer for them. While it is true that on July 4th we celebrate the freedom that all Americans enjoy, without the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform, these celebrations would not be possible.
Happy July 4th. May God forever bless America!
Dan M. Gibson is mayor of Natchez.