Maybe it is something in the air,maybe it is a feeling of home, or maybe just maybe it is what true pride feels like. Whatever it is, it is the airy feeling of the 4th of July in America’s Hometown. The carnival music plays rhythmically in the background followed by childish shouts of glee and excitement, with the added laughter of adults on the rides. In the foreground are the whistles and the explicit words that so easily flow about with Mud Volleyball. The sloshing of the mud sways under yells from the bystanders who were just sprayed with a healthy dose of Mississippi mud. The common tourist gripes about how they got their clothes all dirty, but all the Hannibal natives know better than to wear decent clothes down to the pits. Plastic Hannibal Pirate cups occupy the hands of thousands as they quench their thirst with lemonade made by the high school sports teams and club members. The anticipation builds as the outgoing Tom Sawyer weaves his way in and out of the five girls waiting eagerly on stage to be crowned as the Official Becky Thatcher for the year. Followed swiftly by the announcement of the Official Tom Sawyer of the year. The smoke billows up from the Kiwanis tent as they grill pork sandwiches and hamburgers, acting as almost a biblical reference to feed the thousands. People laugh and squeal as they watch their bullfrogs jump sporadically in the National Frog Jumping Contest. The rage and pure excitement fumes above the starting line of the fence painting contest as competitors see who can cover the white picket fence the fastest with the white wash paint. The aroma of draft beer intoxicates the air of the Tanyard Gardens as performers and bands alike showcase their true talents on stage for the masses.
But, it is when dusk hits, that the town and the senses all dull. Everyone flocks to the levy for a good seat with the best view of Lovers Leap. Children dance about in the grass as adults talk about the activities of the day. Then, that first firework is launched hundreds of feet above the town, and there is a still hush. With the “crack” and “sizzle” of the exploding pyrotechnic the crowd erupts as well. The “ooohs" and “ahhhs" are the only words spoken. Together, as natives, as tourists, and as Americans, they sit, they admire, and they thank God above for giving them such wonderful freedom to hold. And in those moments, a diversified, culturally different, ethnically stratified population stands completely and entirely united. And that, that, right there, is why I will always come home on the 4th of July.