04 July 2007

Party in the Park

Washington Park is a place to be in Denver on the 4th of July. We didn’t do everything, omitting the ACLU’s Liberty Run, for example, but we did plenty.

The Washington Park East and Washington Park West neighborhood associations (along with a couple of other civic groups and area businesses) sponsored a brass quintet in the boathouse, a children’s bike parade and free ice cream and toys. Quintessential small town stuff not unlike what Oxford, Ohio, where I grew up, did this year, but in a big city.

The Denver Municipal Band’s performance in the park was also a treat. The band itself, which dates from 1891, is older than all but a couple of the pieces it performed, and was formed close in time to the time that Washington Park was laid out. I left the performance with two big impressions.

First, I was struck by Semper Fidelis, Sousa’s contributions to the Marines. It is so jolly. Here is a piece composed for people in the business of getting on ships and fighting foreign wars, but it makes it out as if life in the Marines was like a day at the circus.

The second striking point, not surprisingly military, because most brass band music has military connections (even Glen Miller’s “In the Mood” was an anthem played at military bases all through World War II), was when the band played its “Armed Forces Salute”, during which audience members who are veterans stood when the anthem for their service was played. Many stood, but the vast majority were in my father’s generation, where military service was nearly universal, not mine, where it is the exception, especially for the middle class.

We concluded the day by watching the Denver Country Club’s fire works, the second round we’d seen this year after those in Glendale, Colorado. Both rivaled the only game in town when I was growing up. Of course, then, the skies opened and we were soaked. In any other state, that would be a day ruining conclusion. Here, in arid Colorado, rain is almost as much of a spectacle as the fireworks.

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