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Celebrating Our Nation's Independence: 4th of July Part 1 of 3
Artists and authors gather to talk about their best memories growing up celebrating our nation's independence.

In our continuing Artists In Community series, we went out and asked artists a number of questions about our nation's annual birthday celebration. The response was so huge, that we've turned this into a three part series, each with a specific topic of discussion.

For this first round, we asked artists to recall their fondest memories growing up with the 4th of July. The answers will more than likely strike a cord with your own memories as families and friends gather to celebrate.  

While we enjoy reading what artists are thinking about the holidays, we love reading your thoughts as well, so don't forget to post your own answers below in the comments section.

Enjoy a safe and fun Fourth of July holiday!


Q: What is one of your strongest 4th of July memories growing up?

Justin Benner (Hawk Nelson): I tend to think about three things when it comes to the 4th of July: parades, cookouts, and fireworks shows! I remember when I was a kid, our family would go down to the Ohio River to watch a massive fireworks show. That was usually proceeded by a parade that would go down our street in the morning and then we'd get together with friends and family for a good 'ole fashion cookout. Burgers and dogs, corn on the cob and some watermelon. Yum!

Jonathan Steingard (Hawk Nelson): I'm Canadian, so I don't have a lot of 4th of July memories. We Canadians celebrate Canada Day on July 1st. I mostly remember going to see fireworks displays that were illegal any other time of year. Oh the patriotism! 

Jonny Diaz: I'm from a town called Lakeland, FL. Obviously, there are many lakes. We used to love going out on a boat and watching fireworks over the water.

Chris Brink (The Museum): My family would always grill out hot dogs & hamburgers. We'd sit out on the back deck and watch the fireworks. We weren't far away from the downtown area, so we had a great view of the fireworks right from our house. My whole immediate family, their spouses & children would be there & we'd just make an afternoon/evening out of it. I loved the time I got to spend with family on the 4th.

David Zach (Remedy Drive): My strongest memory was a time I was celebrating at a farm in Illinois. I had two packs of bottle rockets in my pocket and I was playing with a sparkler. A spark found its way in with the bottle rockets and they all blew up in my shorts. The guy whose farm it was had to tackle me. I was stripped in front of everyone and aloe vera gel had to be applied to my gluteus maximus.

Todd Larson (An Epic, No Less): Probably being hysterically scared of the noise when I was about 3 years old. (Awwww...memories...)

Adam Cappa: My favorite 4th of July memory is actually a tradition. Every year we get a 'Pizza King' pizza and sit on the hill at the park with our friends to watch the fireworks!

Cheri Keaggy: I'll never forget the very first time I heard one of my songs on the radio. It was July 4, 1994, and we were driving home from a holiday gathering when "Open My Heart" from my debut release, Child of the Father came over the airwaves. I remember quickly calling my parents so they could tune in before the song was over. It would later become my very first No. 1 single on all three formats: INSPO, AC, and CHR.

John Waller: My fondest 4th of July memory was in 1976. Most current Christian artists weren't born yet! It was the bicentennial year. I had no idea that meant it had been 200 years since our independence as a nation. My mom hosted a big back yard party and decked everything in red, white and blue decorations. I LOVED it and always wondered why she never did it again. We'll have to wait for tricentennial!

Joshua Schmidt (Canopy Red): Spending the week at my uncle's lake house at deep creek lake Maryland. We brought the whole family together and would go tubing with my cousins, fishing and waterskiing. Lots of cookouts and laughter with the entire family.

Montell Jordan:
One of my strongest 4th of July memories growing up was watching my dad shooting off fireworks in Los Angeles, California when we were kids. When we were allowed to hold sparklers, we thought it was the coolest thing ever to hold fire and not get burned.

John Schlitt: When I was a young boy, my family and I would go to my school and they would have fireworks in the playground area. I remember the big booms and it scaring me to death and me loving every minute of it!

Laura Allen (No Other Name): I once got to sing the National Anthem for our town's 4th of July parade. I stood on a makeshift stage in the grocery store parking lot where the parade began. I wore a new outfit--red shorts, a blue shirt and white Keds. Oh yeah.

Sam Allen (No Other Name): My next door neighbor would always buy way too many fireworks and set them off for hours while our little dog attempted to eat the fireworks before they went off. This was hours of fun once a year. 

Chad Smith (No Other Name): We always got together at my grandparents on the 4th. I remember one year, we had a fish fry on the creek bank behind their house. We caught fish and the adults fried them. Just having everybody there together was a great time for me as a kid.

Jason Bare: My strongest 4th of July memory would probably be the summer after I graduated High School. I was fortunate to be selected to tour with an elite group of young vocalists, to sing a variety of Christian and Patriotic music at different venues across the country. I've always considered myself a patriotic person but this tour gave me such a different perspective on who we are as "FREE AMERICANS!" We toured and sang right through the 4th of July, celebrating the freedom we have as a country and in Christ! Everyday of that summer felt like the "4th" to me.

Yancy: My church did a huge picnic most years and a big fireworks show, so spending the time with my church family and friends. 

Karyn Williams: My birthday is July 28th, so as a little girl I always got excited during July 4th because I knew my birthday was close! But my favorite 4th of July memory is from just a few years ago in 2007. I was packing up getting ready to move to Nashville, and it was my last Independence Day in Orlando before I left home. We grilled out at my parent's house that afternoon and then gathered together to watch the fireworks from their dock. As I looked around that night at my family I choked back tears because I knew I'd be leaving in a few short weeks for the "music adventure" God was calling me to, and I knew in my heart it was going to be a permanent move. Every 4th of July since then, I have wished I was sitting on the dock snuggled up with my nieces & nephews hearing them "ooh & ahh" at the fireworks. It's a sweet memory. 

Jordan Elias: I remember when I was about four years old, being at a lakeside 4th of July celebration fireworks show. Everything seems so much bigger when you're little. I remember the first firework that went off. I was laying on my back on a blanket in the grass. The thunder of the launch felt like it shook my whole body. I watched the golden tail spiral upwards as my heart pounded. Then the moment came. A purple explosion that appeared to take over the entire sky and then descend into what reminded my young mind of the weeping willow outside of my grandmother’s house, a golden and brilliant weeping willow.

Jenny Somers (Jenny & Tyler): When I was 16, my friends and I took the metro in to DC to watch the fireworks on the Mall. There were people of all ethnicities speaking multiple languages, but despite our differences there was a tangible sense of unity. We recognized our commonality as Americans. It was a beautiful afternoon.

Andy Needham (Andy Needham Band): All of my 4th of July memories center around family. The 4th of July was always a day to share with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I remember watermelon, cheeseburgers and lemonade, followed by a pathetic but enjoyable game of volleyball. The freedom we share in this country to enjoy such beautiful and simple pleasures is such a gift from God. 

James Mileti (The Sunrise): The HUGE 1976 July 4th Bicentennial celebration found my family at a very rich guy's house, who even had an indoor swimming pool! I spent most of the night up in one of the son's bedrooms listening to and playing with his brand new and unknown contraption. It was a QUADRAPHONIC stereo system! He could wiz the sound around all four of his speakers in a rotation, and all four speakers had different sounds coming out of them. Like stereo but times TWO, and mind blowing to a young boy! I missed the entire once in a lifetime fireworks celebration because of my fascination with this QUAD sound system of his.

Justin Rizzo: One of my strongest memories actually didn't take place when I was growing up. It came just three years ago when I was in Connecticut with my wife and her dad who was battling cancer. He headed into surgery on July 2nd and we weren’t sure he would make it through. Several hours later, we received word that the he had indeed made it through and that they had removed the cancer. While he was recovering in the hospital, a big group of us went and saw fireworks together. It was a joyful and memorable Fourth of July because we were so relieved that he made it through the surgery, and it made it all the more special to be together as family.

Michael Milton (Author): My strongest memories of Independence Day are my earliest memories of Independence Day: sitting next to my Aunt Eva, who adopted this orphan boy, in the third pew back to the preacher's right; in our small, little country church in Southeastern Louisiana. There I remember seeing a posting of the colors by old men, young men—turnip farmers, shade tree mechanics, hardware clerks, and barbers, who strained against old age to stand military erect, proud and strong of heart. They wore American Legion hats, from WWI, and the younger ones, the fathers of my friends, from WWII and Korea. I don't remember words, though I can see them speaking in my mind's eye. I do remember some of them saluted the American flag, as they stood in formation at the front if the church. And I do remember some of them with tears in their eyes. That is when I would looked up at Aunt Eva and saw the tears in her eyes. That how I remember the 4th of July.

Perry LaHaie: Climbing up on the roof of our house in northern Michigan to watch the show!

Victoria Griffith (Author): My fondest memory of July 4th is going to the annual Potato Festival in a local nearby town. I always sang, stuffed my face with their famous potato curls, and watched the phenomenal fireworks display. My PawPaw always enjoyed going and taking the grandkids to watch the fireworks.

David Teems (Author): Lake Sinclair, Georgia. I was nine years old. There was no sand on the beach, just mud. Everyone seemed so comfortable walking in it. I did not. The boats were fun. Swimming was fun as long as my feet didn’t touch the bottom. The fireworks later were memorable, I suppose. But it’s the mud that I remember. I didn’t want to jump off the boat. The grossest thing I ever felt on my flesh.

Kevin McNeese started NRT in 2002 and has worked in the industry since 1999 in one form or another. He has been a fan of Christian music since 1991.

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