Fourth of July—Herron Island Style

It’s a reunion of sorts as you walk up Herron Road from the ferry dock. Islanders and guests mingle and prepare for a weekend of patriotic celebration.

Thanks to island member Judy Grienke, Herron has a traditional parade that starts at Good Pasture Park and finishes up at North Beach. Islanders of all ages show up decked out in red, white and blue, and have the option of participating on foot, being pulled or pushed, or driving anything drivable. Imagine an assembly line of streamer-covered floats, wagons, bikes, tractors, golf carts and other various vehicles rolling slowly down a dirt road. Observers whoop and holler, catch candy thrown by the parade-goers or throw it back, and eagerly accept Popsicles from the booster committee.

As evening draws near, we grab our gear of choice for the night and head down to the beach to scope out a spot for the best fireworks viewing. Boats have already jockeyed for places at the dock and trucks have tailgates down, facing the water. The favored location is near the flagpole and the fire pit, where the heart of the night will beat.

It’s magical watching people of all ages run up and down the beach laughing and lighting fireworks. Pure joy lights up the night as you gaze up at the bursts and flares all around.

One of the more memorable Fourths of July from my childhood was in 1983. I had a girlfriend visiting for the weekend, and a male cousin of mine. At the campfire that night, they were getting chummier than I was comfortable with, so I took a walk.

I headed to the biggest fire on the beach. Someone had fueled it with a dry rot boat from the shoreline. I recognized some faces in the glow of the fire and sat next to a friend’s brother, whom I was a little familiar with.

“Why the glum face?” he asked, so I told him a little about why I was upset.

“Hey, I’m heading up to The Kozy Kirks Store. Want to come along?”

“Sure!”

We drove around the island the long way, listening to music and making small talk. We stopped at the store, bought some rope licorice and penny candies, then headed back to the beach.

But instead of returning to the fire, we went out to the dock. He wanted to check a crab pot he’d dropped earlier. He hauled the pot up, and it was glowing from phosphorus. It was so bright and mesmerizing, he dropped it again and again.

I asked to pull it up, and as I leaned in I felt his hand brush the hair off my neck. I turned to face him, and our lips came together. I felt a surge of wonder.

I could vaguely hear my name being called in the distance, then booming footsteps getting closer and closer, then felt a sudden jerk of my arm. My girlfriend pulled me away and up the dock to my mother, standing on the beach in her bathrobe. She’d been searching for me.

I’ll never forget the scolding and grounding that followed, or the new feelings that overshadowed the fireworks that year.

Sue Kingsbury-Surratt is the health technician at Evergreen Elementary School in Lakebay and a cashier at Food Market in Key Center. She lives on Herron Island.

Insights of an Islander
Insights of an Islander