Boston Pops And The Fourth of July

IMG_3632We did it! We made our way down to the Esplanade in Boston, MA with about 300,000 other kinfolk to watch the infamous Boston Pops perform a free concert for the 4th of July.

The Fourth of July on the Esplanade began in 1929 by Arthur Fiedler, who believed that great symphonic music should be accessible to the masses and though his vision this event has become one of the United States most beloved celebrations.

We asked a few locals about the logistics of going to such a grand event and most said that they had been in the past but after the Boston marathon bomber, they didn’t bother anymore. They weren’t interested in having to barrack for a position on the green so early in the morning and felt the increased security and hassle with crowds was too much, so we looked for resources and suggestions on-line. We found some good suggestions at wikihow and made a few notes.

IMG_3594With great anticipation, we packed our blanket, picnic basket, books and rain gear (just in case) and left the house at about 9am. We drove our van to the Brookline Hill subway station, parked for free and bought a $2.50 one way ticket to the Park Street Station near the Esplanade. We walk about a half of a mile to the grounds, passed through security (who were actually in pretty good spirits) and made our way towards the band shell. We staked claim to a spot about half way back on the Esplanade lawn and set up our little area. We watched as the grass quickly disappeared beneath blankets, chairs, picnic baskets, and outstretched bodies and our excitement grew. The Charles River Basin was crammed with all manner of boats and floats and the atmosphere was one of communal good cheer. Folks seemed genuinely happy to be there, together.

To pass the time, we enjoyed our meal, read books, took turns walking around, talked to folks, and took a few cat naps. It rained for about an hour but we were prepared and stuffed everything in a plastic bag and put on our rain coats to wait it out. Once the rain dissipated and the sun came out we found that the ground dried up quickly and were able to settle back in for the evening.

As the sun set, the anticipation rose and in one magical moment the conductor, Keith Lockhart, who was celebrating his 20th anniversary as conductor, mounted the podium and the music began. We enjoyed a fun-filled program with a varied line-up of performers, including Broadway performer Michael Cavanaugh who did a hardy rendition of Billy Joel’s Piano Man,  American Idol finalist Melinda Doolittle; Boston-based quartet, the  Sons of Serendip; the Boston Crusaders drum and bugle corps; gospel singer and The Voice contestant Michelle Brooks-Thompson, and the USO Show Troupe. The finale included Tchaikovsky’s monumental 1812 Overture (complete with cannons and church bells) and the enduring Stars and Stripes Forever as the encore which included the ceremonial American flag drop and confetti shot.

After the concert, we packed up our blanket and picnic stuff and made our way to the Charles River Basin to enjoy the fireworks orchestrated by the Grucci’s, family owned and operated since 1850. The crowd was dense and the sky was cloudy making for a loud smokey experience. So, after a few pops and bangs we decided to beat the crowds and make our way back to the Park Street Station. The fare back to the Brookline Hill station was free and the trains were just starting to pack ’em in. We all managed to squeeze on and made our way home safe and sound.

If we had to do it again, we would! It was a pretty amazing thing to be there, enjoying the moment and spending the day as a family.



4th of July Family Caravan

The Blumreich family, our first community caravaner’s, joined us over the 4th of July weekend.

blumreichbus.jpgWe picked up Eric, Jodie, Emma and Clara on a Thursday in front of their house and began our trek south towards the beautiful town of Galena, IL. Our first stop Beloit, WI for the Blumreich annual family gathering. We enjoyed a potluck style meal, played yard games, sang songs and enjoyed fireworks.

The next morning we packed up and drove about three hours before pulling into the Palace Campground, which sits just outside of Galena. We discovered this little gem last summer and knew the Blumreich’s would appreciate the vintage aspect of the facility, including an old school pool with diving board and mini-golf course. Everything about the campground reminds us of camping back in the 1970’s and in a world that is constantly upgrading there is something nostalgic about that. It would be the ideal setting for most of the Chevy Chase ‘Vacation’ movies.

PalaceCampground.jpgWhen we arrived at the campground and set up three tents, one for Jodie, Eric and Clara, one for Graciana and Emma and one for John and Les (Eric’s parents). Then we all settled in for a fantastic weekend.

We enjoyed swimming, mini-golf, a trip to the city center to see all of the historical artifacts and shops. We shared meals, bon fire’s and song. We observed each other families, with the most encouraging conversations revolving around the joys and woes of parenting teen’s and pre-teens.

It’s no easy task to be a parent to any age group and it’s affirming to share our journey with other parents in order that we might know that our struggles are perfectly normal, that we aren’t the only ones going through it, and that we are not alone. Likewise, it was good for our children, specially our 16 year old’s, who sometimes believes that the grass is greener on the other side. They were both able to work through drama, share dreams and desires, and hopefully gain perspective by being in such close quarters.

thehollandsgalena.jpgOur ultimate purpose for going to Galena was to perform for the Galena Performing Arts Festival, which rounded out the weekend nicely. The concert was held in the historic Grace Episcopal church and was a fantastic setting. Seating about 80, we packed the house to over 150.

We were a little leery about how our children would transition from enjoying the lazy weekend with friends to performing, but they did a fantastic job. Funny enough, that day, I had spent quite a bit of time myself in the pool and personally couldn’t hear much during our performance with all of the water in my ears. However, everyone else picked up the slack and this one will go down as one of our favorite settings and behind the scenes moments. Including, Eric’s helpful hand in set up/tear down, Emma’s thoughtful prayer for us before our show, a tender moment when Craig introduced Graciana as our “beautiful” daughter, Banjo’s fun antics on stage, and the Malik family driving in from Mt. Vernon, IA to see us and say hello.

On our drive home, I asked Eric for constructive feedback on what it was like to travel with our family. He responded, “your future guests will have to be pretty laid back.” Ha! I know we beat to a different drum and we are thankful that the Blumreich family took the plunge to be our first caravan guests. We are thankful for their willingness to swim upstream with us merrymaking nomads. We love you Eric, Jodie, Emma and Clara.