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Celebrating Independence Day: Patriotism, family, fun in abundance at DeKalb’s Hopkins Park




Joy Shore of West Palm Beach, Florida, said she remains convinced that patriotism is alive and well in the nation, even in today’s political climate, as she looked to spend time with family at the DeKalb Park District’s annual Fourth of July celebration.

The hot, partly cloudy day where the temperature nearly reached 90 degrees did little to sway her optimism as she made the trek to DeKalb to celebrate the holiday with family.

“Everybody’s having a good time with their families,” Shore said. “It’s lovely out here. I can’t compare to last year, so it looks like everybody’s having fun and [is] patriotic. I’m seeing a lot of red, white and blue.”

The Independence Day celebration showcased a variety of food stands, vendors, a live DJ and more.

At Hopkins Park, park officials set up about 70 picnic tables for families to use. The band shell was also used to provide musical entertainment.

“We do it here at Hopkins Park [every year because] it’s got the most space to bring people in,” said Mat Emken, superintendent of parks and development for the Park District. “The [DeKalb] Municipal Band plays every year.”

Families at the event had the opportunity to take a swim in the Hopkins Pool.

“It’s been busy,” said Greg Bruggeman, superintendent of recreation for the Park District. “We’ve got lots of families. It’s a good turnout. I was a little worried this morning, but it’s picked up quite a bit.”

Festivities began early for some at Hopkins Park with the annual Independence Day 5K Run/Walk.

“We have families that have been out here in the park grilling since 8 o’clock this morning, and they’ll be here until after the fireworks,” Emken said. “They’re really coming to make a real day out of it.”

Shore stood watching as her grandson went to the playground.

“We’re looking forward to seeing what the vendors have,” she said.

This year was not Shore’s first time coming to DeKalb to visit family.

“It was a super-long drive because we went by way of New Orleans, Texas, Kansas City, Laramie, Wyoming; and now [we’re] here to visit our grandson,” Shore said. “They live in DeKalb.”

DeKalb resident Tiffinie Torres said she makes it an annual tradition to celebrate the holiday at the park.

She said it’s all about the “fireworks, the family, kids, park.”

Torres’ family set up two grills and several coolers to celebrate.

Torres said she was looking forward to taking in the sight of the fireworks at dusk.

“It’s a good family thing,” she said. “For the past couple years, they’ve been pretty good. They’ve done better before, but they’re very, very well done.”

DeKalb resident Payton Marten said she was excited to celebrate the Fourth of July with family and friends.

“Since I’ve been little, we’ve been coming here,” she said. “My favorite part is just hanging out with my friends and being here. The fireworks are always really awesome.”

Marten’s family and friends took to the park with a grill and their own DJ.

Marten said she feels it’s important to display her patriotism on this day.

“More and more I’m kind of seeing people on Facebook posting about how they’re not going to celebrate the country,” she said. “Every year is going to be different—no matter who’s president or who’s not our president. Everyone has their opinions, so to each their own.”

Rosa Mendez of DeKalb sat at a picnic table with family enjoying one another’s company. She said she and her family visit Hopkins Park every year to celebrate the holiday.

“It’s always [the traditional items]—the hot dogs, burgers—but then we always bring our Mexican stuff,” she said.

Mendez said the fireworks are always a sight to see.

“I always feel like if I don’t come here for the Fourth of July, I didn’t have a summer,” she said. “It’s part of my summer. We look forward to it.”