Last evening our family celebrated Independence Day listening to Cleveland’s Festival Band under the stars at the awesome venue known as Blossom Music Festival, in the heart of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The setting is a natural amphitheater, with the focal point being a masterfully designed pavilion where an amazing array of talented musicians perform music for their fans. The open expanse of lawn provides ample room for a pre-concert picnic, frisbee-tossing with the children, and just plain fun. This patriotic concert was followed by a breath-taking fireworks display that left the heart pounding. What a great night!
I love my hometown. While I do not actually live in the city of Cleveland, those of us who have grown up around here know that it is generally accepted that if you live in any of the surrounding east/west/south suburbs, you still say you are from Cleveland when talking with outsiders. It’s just easier that way. My concert experience last evening reminded me of why I love Cleveland and its people so much. Here are a few reasons that came to mind:
1. We are real. I have explained to many a guest or new resident to our fine area that they will never have to wonder what people think around here. We don’t wait to be asked what our opinion is. We just say it. For good or for bad, we have no problem stating what we think about something, whether it is the weather, local politics, local sports, etc. We have our rough edges and we know it. We have a sense of humor about ourselves, and we are OK with that too.
2. We are hardy. Speaking of weather, we deal with all kinds. If you have lived in this area for any length of time, you have heard the phrase, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 minutes – it will change.” After several days of high heat and humidity this week, last night we found ourselves wearing fall hoodies and blankets as we listened to the concert. In spite of a stellar forecast by local meteorologists predicting a beautiful evening, sprinkles of rain mid-concert forced the opening of umbrellas and donning of rain gear (no surprise that we Ohioans had come prepared). Not much gets the best of us here. Even tough news in the community brings out our resilience.
3. We are good sports. We know how to win and lose well. I grew up listening to the radio as Mark Price and the Cleveland Cavaliers played in the Coliseum in Richfield. I survived the Bernie Kosar-Kardiac Kids era of the Browns. I let my young boys stay up late on school nights to watch the Cleveland Indians play-off games in 1995, during the Omar Visquel – Jim Thome- Kenny Lofton era, when we all knew every player’s name and field position. We have won some, we have lost some. It’s tough to be on the losing side, but as we say in these parts, “There’s always next year.”
4. We are congenial. As I looked across the filled-to-capacity lawn at Blossom last night, I saw people of all ages and walks of life sitting together on a hillside in our beautiful national park, enjoying great music, food and holiday festivities without insult or disturbance. Older folks smiled patiently as little ones played with glow sticks. Rounds of applause filled the amphitheater for our military servicemen honored during the concert. Cheers rose up from the crowd as the fireworks finale lit up the sky and echoed through the valley. Afterwards, parents carried their tired young ones on their shoulders for the walk to the car and everyone let those with walkers and wheelchairs go ahead of us. The pleasant atmosphere that pervaded the entire evening made the experience that much more enjoyable.
I love America. We have great cities. We have great hometowns and farms and plains and lakes and mountains. We have amazing arts, technology, music and educational opportunities. We have a great history and potential for a great future ahead. We rise above the hard times and we celebrate the good times.
I love my hometown. Some months ago I read an article honoring a local woman who had devoted much of her life to serve the people of Cleveland. At one time in her life she had moved away for a time, but then returned. It was said of her, “You may take the woman out of Cleveland, but you can’t take Cleveland out of the woman.” I feel the same way.
I hope as you have commemorated this day of our nation’s independence that you also take time to celebrate the corner of this great land in which you live. And may God bless America, from sea to shining sea!