What a way to celebrate Independence Day! | Around Town | Jeb Bing | PleasantonWeekly.com |

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By Jeb Bing

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About this blog: A longtime newspaperman, I have been editor of the Pleasanton Weekly since it was launched Jan. 28, 2000. I was a reporter and Neighborhood News editor at the Chicago Tribune for 13 years, and previously a reporter for the Advance...  (More)

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What a way to celebrate Independence Day!

Uploaded: Jul 7, 2008
It's back to work on Monday, July 7 after a fun-filled weekend in Pleasanton. Like thousands of others, about as far as I drove was to the mall to meet others for lunch on Saturday and to Dublin to look at the crowds buying fireworks despite non-Dubliners' admonition to avoid them this year because of California's mounting fire hazards. Still, there were no reports of accidents and for the first time in recent Independence Day memories, I heard only a few loud bangs in distant neighborhoods the night of July 4.

With so much going on in town this weekend, why would anyone want to leave? About 300 gathered at Lions Wayside Community Park for the 10th annual community picnic, stilled called by its complicated name, "Celebrating Freedom and its Evolution since the Revolution." That's the name given the event when it was started by local businessman Ron Sutton, who foots much of the bill to produce the three-hour gala so who's to complain?

The event has evolved into a good old fashioned family event complete with patriotic music buy the Pleasanton Community Concert Band under the direction of Bob Williams and his all-volunteer group of volunteer musicians. Always a highlight for me is to listen to the booming voice of Ward Belding who still fits into the Uncle Sam suit he bought decades ago. If you have a comfortable lawn chair and a cool drink in your hand, you can sit back and listen to Belding's readings of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and others who are now long gone and think they're right there with us speaking out again. It made for a bit of nostalgia of simpler times although those who lived through that era know it was not so simple either.

Besides crediting Sutton with all the good work (and funding) he does for this annual event, I should also salute Jerri Long, the retired teacher and public relations czar of the Pleasanton school district, who does much of the yearly planning and organizing of these events.

By the looks of the jam-packed crowds I saw at Saturday's Farmers Market, it was clear that many others took advantage of a festive holiday weekend right here in Pleasanton to save on gas and energy by just staying close to home. Of course, some came as far away as San Ramon, which, when you realize that fuel now costs $4.40 a gallon, isn't a cheap trip anymore. But it sure beats driving into San Francisco with a $4 bridge toll to boot, or even farther as some in my family went. My wife Jan went to Chicago on a July 4 supersaver fare to visit relatives; my daughter Jenny moved July 2 to Montreal on a new assignment from Bechtel; my son Chris is in New York finishing work on a doctorate; and even my Pleasanton-based daughter Kerry Nally and her husband Jack took their three kids to visit friends in a three-level cabin (cabin?) in near Tahoe for the weekend. So Farmers Market with its vendor offerings of fresh fruit and staples was a welcome trip out of the house and, as always, a chance to meet up friends at Tully's for some typical Saturday morning chatter.

Sunday was a chance to walk the fairgrounds one last time as the Alameda County Fair came to a close. Again, with a filled parking lot and crowded midway, a lot of folks were there from all parts of the county and beyond, but still staying close to home. With no family in tow, I took my time walking through some of the exhibits that have special appeal. The display cases showing kids' hobbies and collecitons were fascinating. Who would think that if you start collecting toy cars or Barbie dolls or minature glassware when you're 5 years old that you might have it all displayed at the county fair when you're a bit older. From crafts to hand-made blankets to jewelry, these exhibits represented thousands of hours of collecting and workmanship that was worth the time.

By 6 p.m., with the crowds starting to thin as Monday and another workday came closer, I joined those who had walked from free parking spaces downtown to look for a bite to eat on a fairly quiet Main Street before heading home. My car's gas gauge had hardly budged from the fill-up last Wednesday. Where else but right here in Pleasanton can you have a variety-packed weekend without leaving town. What a place!
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 +  Like this comment
Posted by Chris, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows,
on Jul 7, 2008 at 11:25 am

Great round up on the weekend Jeb! So much here to do, we are lucky we don't HAVE to drive to have safe fun!

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Long, a resident of Jensen Tract,
on Aug 27, 2008 at 11:59 am

Thank you, Jeb, for your July 7 online tribute to the many volunteers who put together the tenth annual Fourth of July celebration in Lions Wayside Park. I only saw the posting belatedly, after it was forwarded by a friend. While you were right on target in lauding the musical talents of vocalist Ward Belding and the Pleasanton Community Concert Band, I must respectfully correct you on one point: We had about double your crowd estimate of 300 in the audience. I had the pleasure of being a greeter (along with Barbara Lucich), and we very quickly ran out of the 500 American flags donated by the local Lions Club -- just as Lions volunteers had to turn away a long line of hungry people after serving 500 of their popular "Dog & a Drink for a Dollar" lunches. We will plan for more next year, and welcome all those who discover how fun a summertime hometown holiday can be.

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