The 4th of July fell on a three day weekend this year, which I loved because it meant three full days of celebrating instead of trying to crowd everything into one.

We decorated a wagon and Katie’s bike before we joined our small neighborhood parade. A minivan pulled up the rear playing “Stars and Stripes Forever” which made it easy to pretend we were being followed by a full marching band. We had just enough time to grab some watermelon and a water balloon or two before we hopped in the car to drive up the street and see the Lake Helen parade.

Now, I’ll tell you this. We DeLandites love a parade. We shut down our Mainstreet every chance we get, and the city turns out in droves. But I don’t recall DeLand ever throwing an Independence Day parade, and I suspect it’s because there is no way we could hold a candle to the small town charm that Lake Helen brings to the table. They have toddlers on ponies and seniors on scooters, and everything else in between. It is, by far, the parade I look forward to most each year.

That said, I have to give it to DeLand for their fireworks display. Last year, there was a huge overhaul on Earl Brown Park, and one of my favorite additions is the new bandstand. As we arrived, the mood was set by Joel CrouseBefore we knew it the sun was down and the fireworks went up, and it was the most amazing display I think I’ve ever seen.

The only thing brighter than the sky were the smiles on my kids faces. There is nothing I love more than to see their expressions light up with each burst. At one point Katie noticed me watching her. She pointed to the sky and said, “You’re missing it!” If she only knew.

Speaking of amazing fireworks, we finished up our holiday weekend with a serious display at my brother-in-law’s house. A few of us pitched in on a spending spree at the local fireworks store. We had fountains, and mortars, and firecrackers, and flowers, and sparklers (SO MANY sparklers). It was almost midnight by the time I put my babies to bed, still covered in ash and bug spray. And when I finally got to bed myself, I smiled at the memories of one more holiday in the books, while dreaming of what fun we’ll come up with next.