At a causal glance, Independence Day events might look like just patriotic parades, community concerts and fireworks.
But officials in Butler County cities and townships say take a closer look at these activities because they do much more than commemorate a national holiday and entertain.
Amid the increasingly American norm of isolation brought on by information bubbles of social media, busy two-job families and a faster pace of life, community-wide events are a throwback to more communal times of human gatherings, say local officials.
“It’s about engagement,” on a person-to-person level, says Hamilton spokesperson Brandon Saurber.
The city is the county seat of Butler County, and officials there are offering a series of Fourth of July events all designed in part to better bind the city’s residents.
“A lot of our work … is really to that end,” Saurber said. “These are the kind of events we work on year around to bring Hamilton together.”
He said the Fourth of July day and evening activities are among Hamilton’s “big trio of events” of each year. The others are Operation Pumpkin in the fall and the city’s Ice Fest, held every other year in January.
The use of community events to bring residents together isn’t unique to Hamilton.
Ann Becker is a long-time resident and a first-term trustee for West Chester Twp., which is the most populous township in Ohio.
West Chester officials work in close cooperation with its adjacent Liberty Twp. – the two share the West Chester-Liberty Chamber Alliance – and Liberty hosts the largest Fourth of July parade in the combined communities.
West Chester handles the joint effort of the annual Memorial Day Parade.
But underlining all local celebrations of national holidays – as well as community events such as the recent West Chester’s annual Buckeye BBQ Fest – is a goal of bringing people together, Becker said.
“We as a community have to listen to each other more,” she said. “It’s really important to see people as people, and to see people in person.”
Officials in the city of Fairfield aim for the same dual goal beyond celebrating the nation’s birth.
“Fairfield has its annual Red, White & Kaboom fireworks display by Rozzi’s every July 3,” said Jenny Dexter, spokeswoman for the city.
The city arranged viewing areas in four different locations close to popular fireworks show Wednesday evening.
Middletown City officials will extend the holiday celebration into the coming weekend and at the same time offer events to strengthen the bond between residents.
Middletown’s All-American Heroes Weekend begins Friday at Governor’s Square downtown where people can meet hometown heroes, including police officers and firefighters, and members of the military, according to city officials.
Starting at noon at Middletown on Saturday, there will be events at Swallen’s Park, which includes, among other things, free bounce houses, obstacle course and face painting. Live music starts at noon and will run until 9 p.m., said officials.
Dexter said the opportunity for Fairfield residents to mix and mingle is worth the city’s efforts.
“It’s really one big city-wide party to celebrate the Fourth of July, and many residents host their own parties,” she said.
“And the sense of community that comes from being at Red, White and Kaboom (fireworks show) … is unmatchable.”
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