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Celebrating the 4th of July in the Finger Lakes

Keuka Lake at Hammondsport, NY

Perhaps you have observed the same thing that we observed: the annual 4th of July celebration just didn’t seem like the 4th of July. We couldn’t blame it on the weather as this year’s 4th of July was an absolutely gorgeous day albeit unusually hot summer temperatures prevailed– but perfect for a summer picnic or cookout or a cooling swim in one of the Finger Lakes.

We thought that it would be an ideal day for us to find a local chicken barbeque so I began searching on google. Not much to be found but I did find out that the Branchport Fire Department was having a chicken barbeque at 12:00 noon followed by a parade at 2:00 pm. And so we headed to Branchport, NY. We arrived at the little village just before noon. Already folks had been busy setting out their chairs along the roadside so that they could have a good view of the parade. It was a scene that reminded me of Thomas Edison’s parade in Ft. Myers Florida during February except folks there start picking out their spot along the parade route a week or so in advance. We arrived at the Branchport Fire Department only to find a long line of folks waiting for some barbequed chicken. The line snaked out of the firehouse and into the parking lot. Because of the noon heat, we opted not to wait in line and headed south along route 54A to the village of Hammondsport, NY which is on the south end of Keuka Lake.

Route 54A was lined with cars all the way from Branchport to Hammondsport with vacationers who came for the 4th of July week. Many of the cars sported license plates from Maryland, New Jersey, or from neighboring Pennsylvania. The air-conditioned car ride was pleasant with glimpses of Keuka Lake and all of the boating activity on Keuka Lake. The road is windy so speeds more than 35 mph are out of the question which was OK for us as we were just enjoying the scene.  We had our lunch at our favorite restaurant in Hammondsport: the Hammondsport Bar and Grill which sits right on one corner of the village commons. We like to people watch and there were enough bikers and travelers to keeps us entertained while we enjoyed our lunch in air-conditioned comfort.

Depot Park in Hammondsport, NY

After lunch we drove down to the Lake. I was surprised to only find a few folks gathered in the shade of one of the trees in the park. The swimming area was almost completely abandoned save for a couple of children trying to shake of the intense summer heat in the cool water of Keuka Lake. The boating folks would occasionally pull up to the docks for a bit of respite from being on the lake, but other than that, there wasn’t much of a crowd celebrating the 4th of July.

Depot Park Hammondsport, NY

Why didn’t the 4th of July seem like the 4th of July that I remembered when I was a child? Was it because the official holiday this year came in the middle of the week? Perhaps. But I think that the real reason is that we are celebrating the beginning of the summer vacation season on the 4th of July. It’s a time for families to live a little closer to nature and to enjoy the summer sun. Most folks don’t even think about those days of hardship when a few folks in Boston decided that they had enough of being taxed without any representation and longed for freedom. Freedom and air-conditioning: two things that we take for granted today. One can be easily lost if an electric wire is severed. The other can also be easily lost if we don’t pay any attention to what our elected officials are really doing with our tax money in Washington, DC.

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