For the past couple of years I haven't celebrated the 4th of July in any sort of traditional way.
Well, I did manage to toss more than my fair share of beer down my throat, but that's about the only aspect of celebrating the day that was normal for me.
No backyard barbeque with friends, or afternoon on a boat on one of the nearby lakes, no hot dog eating, no fireworks gazing. None of the normal stuff people do on the 4th.
I left home this year with good intentions to complete about half the items on that list, but it just didn't happen.
Greenville has quite the community celebration for the 4th. Folks here love to close down sections of Main Street and will grasp at any opportunity to do so. The 4th of July is one of those opportunities.
Starting from in front of my favorite downtown joint Soby's and going south toward the river, the city closes the equivalent of about three city blocks.
A stage with live country music occupies the middle of Main Street right in front of Soby's with all manner of vendors and whatnot spread out along the rest of the blocked-off area.
Things begin ramping up around 5 PM and continue until after the fireworks show ends around 10:30.
Last year I wandered into all of this purely by accident. The 4th was on Sunday and I did my usual Sunday late-afternoon beer break at the Blue Ridge Brewery on the north end of Main. After a couple of beers there, I decided to stroll the six or so blocks to Soby's just to see what was going on.
Soby's owns the parking lots just to its south. It had set up some barbeque grills and a beer-wine concession in the lot. A friend of mine who works in Soby's business office was selling soft drinks and water from a concession at the front of the lot. I pulled up a chair and spent the next two or three hours helping her sell family-friendly thirst quenchers.
Of course I was also tasked with fetching us beers. Helping the parched is thirsty work.
Although the 4th was on a Monday this year, I followed last year's routine and began the afternoon at Blue Ridge sipping a couple of Sacred Cow brown ales from my "ugly" mug.
Leaving Blue Ridge about 5 PM, I headed toward Soby's. As I passed in front of it, there was a friend of mine, the wife of a Soby's bartender buddy of mine, working the beer-and-wine concession set up in one of the three sets of double doors along Soby's front.
I walked around to the entrance, got a beer from the bar (They were selling the usual array of Bud products at the beer concession my friend was working and I required something with a little more flavor.), and joined my friend at her make-shift bar.
My plan was just to keep her company for a while, but as the crowd swelled and she became busier, I couldn't just stand there with a silly grin on my face and a beer in my hand; I had to pitch in.
We pushed a lot of beer out the front door. I never did get my hot dog or see the fireworks. I could hear people oohing and aahing between the sound of popping beer caps as I toiled away.
I know what you are thinking: Is this guy willing to sacrifice or what? Yes, I am a giver.
Bless their hearts; Soby's picked up my bar tab for the afternoon -- not an insignificant amount, I must admit.
All things considered, it was a great way to spend the day.