Smile Politely

Get your Culture here: Four experiences to have in July

Is it seriously July already? Why does summer always feel like two days yet winter lasts eight years? As we near the halfway point, I always start to panic a bit. Wait, am I taking advantage of all that summer has to offer? Am I having all the summer fun that I am required to have? The answer is surely no, but there are still chances to be had. Here are a few suggestions for diving into summer culture in the month of July.

Photo by Seth Fein

Celebrate freedom?

This week there are endless ways to recognize the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The 4th of July is a holiday that I loved as a kid. I have a blur of blissful memories involving bomb pops, running circles around the house with sparkler in hand (a practice I do NOT recommend…WTH were we thinking?), lying on a blanket at the park with thousands of others while watching fireworks burst overhead, hanging out of a car window with my friends singing Eric Carmen’s “Turn the Radio Up” as my mom waited in a long line of cars to exit said park. Okay that last one is really weird and specific, but it happened.

I still like so much of the revelry that surrounds the 4th. But honestly, it’s really hard to be excited about a country that — drags out soapbox — is currently holding children in deplorable conditions and elected a person whose denial of raping someone includes the phrase “she’s not my type” and who thinks “busing” merely indicates a mode of transportation for getting children to school. And those are just the issues we’re talking about in this particular moment. So no Lee Greenwood, I’m not always proud to be an American, but I think that’s okay. I think we can have a complicated relationship with this country. We can appreciate the good things and call out the bad things. We can celebrate the 4th with our family and friends while remembering that being patriotic is not blind allegiance. We can support the troops while also standing behind Colin Kaepernick and Megan Rapinoe when they don’t participate in the National Anthem. During this week of attending all the patriotic displays, also find where you can support those who are out there pushing back, and keep calling your reps and holding their feet to the fire on important issues.

There are numerous fireworks viewing events happening throughout the area, so whether you prefer a small venue where you’re not battling quite as much traffic after, or if you want to go the “big city” route in C-U, you’ll be covered. Our friends at Chambanamoms do a bang up job of pulling together a full list of 4th of July fun. Oh, and no matter how you celebrate, please be responsible about setting explosives on fire and drinking and such, and don’t be the asshole that’s setting off bottle rockets at 1 a.m. Not everyone appreciates your amateur pyrotechnics. 

Photo from Facebook event page

Learn about the past

We have a unique opportunity this month to hear from a descendant of a pivotal figure in U.S. History. A few years ago, I visited the Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota. It’s located just a few miles outside of Custer, the SD town named after the general Crazy Horse and his tribe killed at the Battle of Little Bighorn, in defense of their land and way of life. The memorial was initiated by Standing Bear, a cousin of Crazy Horse, in the 1940s and remains a work in progress. The story of Crazy Horse is a fascinating one, that of course is more than just that famous battle, and it stuck with me after that visit. Now, we can hear about his life from two experts on July 7th at the Champaign Public Library. Crazy Horse family elder Floyd Clown Sr. is touring the U.S. with author William Matson, to discuss their book Crazy Horse: The Lakota Warrior’s Life and Legacy. The event will be from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Photo by Julie McClure

Watch a movie from the trunk of your car

My family makes the trek to Gibson City at least once a summer to take in a flick at Harvest Moon Drive-In. Of course it has all of the general nostalgia feels of a drive-in movie, including the old school concession stand commercials, but it pulls on my “ahhh youth” heartstrings too. I grew up in Bloomington-Normal, about the same distance from Gibson City as C-U, and made a few trips over with my friends in high school. It’s possible we stuck one of the smaller of us in the trunk once or twice, which seems kinda dumb now because that saved us what, $5 at the time? I think we just wanted to see if we could actually do it. Sorry Harvest Moon, I did donate money a while back when you were updating your equipment.

The drive-in is best experienced with a group of friends or family, who all chip in and bring food. They charge a $5 fee for you to do that, but they then turn around and give you a coupon for free popcorn or drinks. The grassy areas in front of the screen are great for frisbee, can jam, cornhole, I even saw a bocce ball game happening last time. Check their website for upcoming films. Right now, they’ve only got the first weekend of July announced, as well as the weekend of the 18th, when The Lion King is released (side note…I’m just a touch excited for this movie).

Photo from Eastern Illinois Foodbank Facebook page

Help the community

Summer is a great time to volunteer for things, as organizations often see a drop in volunteer numbers as students clear out for the summer. Whether you go solo, with your significant other, with friends, or as a family, maybe consider doing some good in our fair cities this month.

Eastern Illinois Foodbank has a couple of food repacking events coming up in July that put a fun spin on a traditional volunteer outing. One is a date night, where they encourage you to bring your significant other and instead of spending your dollars on dinner and such, donate them to EIF and head to the warehouse on July 13th at 5:30 p.m. to repack food donations for distribution to community partners, then enjoy some socializing, wine, and snacks afterwards. If you want to get the whole fam in on the action, they’ve got a Home Run Family Food Repack on July 28th, where you can bring along kids age five and up to help label cans of food for local food pantries, have snacks, and get a chance to win a pretty sweet baseball themed raffle prize. Be sure to wear your favorite baseball team shirt.


School supplies will start appearing in the store in about a week, so don’t let the summer pass you by. And of course, check our Weekender for all the best things to do week to week, in our humble opinions. 

Top photo by Sam Logan

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