Fourth of July – a Time to Remember

Published 7:29 pm Friday, July 2, 2021

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The Fourth of July has always been one of my favorite holidays. Having grown up the son of a father who was a WWII Veteran and a mother who bled red, white and blue, I didn’t have a choice. To this day great memories linger of fantastic family celebrations… picnics with barbecue ribs, fried chicken, baked beans, homemade pies, and the greatest Independence Day indulgences of all: watermelon and homemade ice cream!

Last year, we experienced quite a different Fourth of July here in Natchez. Because of the COVID pandemic, many events were canceled, but we still managed to enjoy some outdoor time and the fireworks on the river were beautiful as always.

This year we are going from one extreme to another – from literally what was the smallest event last year to what is now expected to be the biggest and best Independence Day celebration the City of Natchez has ever seen.  Thousands of people will be filling up our hotels, shops, and restaurants as we gather on the bluff to welcome legendary artists Hank Williams, Jr., Steve Earle, and a host of others.

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After a long season of crowd limitations and covid restrictions, Natchez will this weekend be host to the first and largest outdoor event of this size in the entire state, and very likely the entire region!

With all of the fun and festivities, let us not forget why we celebrate.  We owe more than we could ever give to the men and women of our armed forces who have sacrificed all so that we can enjoy the peace and prosperity of living in these United States of America. Even this weekend as we revel in the fun, soldiers are standing watch all over the globe to make sure America is protected.

It has been to a pleasure to connect with many of the veterans we have here locally.  On the first Monday of each month, the Mayor’s Veteran’s Task Force comes together to discuss issues important to local citizens who have served our country.  I have heard from members of the VFW, American Legion, and Homes with Heroes.  These organizations are doing remarkable things not just in the city limits of Natchez but also in our region. Whether it be flag retirement, helping veterans in need, operating a veterans clothing bank, or a host of other programs, these patriots freely give of their time to assist others.

While we are enjoying the safety of celebrations at home this weekend, there are currently 165,000 active duty members of the United States military serving in over 150 countries.  Some are serving on air bases in Western Europe, others on Navy vessels in Southeast Asia, and some on bases in the middle of the desert in the Middle East.  For many, it has been months, even years, since they enjoyed a night out with their spouse, played catch in the yard with their children, worshiped with their congregation at their church, or enjoyed a backyard barbecue with friends. 

Through the weekend’s festivities, let’s take time to remember the sacred service that these soldiers provide and say a prayer for them. While it is true that on the Fourth of July we celebrate the liberty enjoyed by all Americans, without the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform these celebrations would not be possible.

Happy Fourth of July. May God Forever Bless America!

Dan M. Gibson is Mayor of Natchez.