Celebrate the Fourth

Come join a popping-good celebration of summer's grandest holiday. Razzle-dazzle decorations and easy-as-pie family activities pull it all together.

Homespun activities have always been a hallmark of America's birthday celebration. Turn your kids loose to craft party favors and a tablecloth. That will keep their enthusiasm high and your stress level low.

Firecracker Favors
What You Need:
  • cardboard paper towel rolls
  • red tissue paper
  • dove feathers
  • patriotic sayings
  • globe toys
  • foil-wrapped candy stars or other treats

1. Cover the paper towel rolls with red tissue paper.

2. Before sealing both ends, fill with such things as dove feathers -- as a symbol of peace -- or print out famous patriotic sayings.

3. Add globe toys, foil-wrapped candy stars, or other treats.

Kid-Made Tablecloth
What You Need:
  • white sheet
  • narrow paint rollers
  • red acrylic paint

1. Spread a white sheet across a driveway and have young ones use narrow paint rollers to apply the design with red acrylic paint.

2. After the paint dries, heat-set it according to the manufacturer's directions.

Why so much red in our holiday decorations? Some say it's a color that symbolizes sacrifice. But it's also true that only strong, bold personalities dare bring red to the party. And that's America: Bold.

To keep the stems standing straight, slip them into plastic drinking straws or vinyl tubing. Scatter spray-painted starfish along the table to complete the Old Glory theme. There's no need to scour the beach for starfish. You can buy them by the bag at crafts and imports stores. To keep the troops in line before the main meal is ready, set up a table topped with munchies and cold drinks, so hungry guests can nibble as they play and wait for dinnertime.

Your potluck menu could wind up as six tubs of potato salad, five pans of brownies, and not a single baked bean in sight if you don't plant ahead. Balance the menu by making suggestions about what friends should bring.

  • Treat recipes like official pronouncements. Print recipes on pretty paper or vellum, roll them up, and seal with stars.
  • Fill a vase or bucket with the scrolls so everyone gets to take home new ideas.
  • Have everyone clearly name the dishes they bring. No one wants to bit into what they thinks is plain corn bread, only to discover there is a jalapeno pepper surprise in the center.
  • Buy metal, plastic, or wooden garden markers, and wash them well. As cooks arrive, have them mark these decorations to label their dishes.

Any holiday centered around such lines as "...and the rockets' red glare; the bombs bursting in air..." begs for whirligigs and blasts of color. For early Americans, firing off muskets punched up the festivities. But nowadays, a homemade pinwheel works fine.

What You Need:
  • heavy paper or Mylar
  • scissors
  • ball-headed pushpins
  • balsa wood sticks
  • drinking straws

1. Cut the heavy paper or Mylar into 8-inch squares. Draw lines from opposing corners, making a giant X. Cut 4 inches along each line of the X from the corners toward the center.

2. Pierce every other corner with a ball-headed pushpin, then stick the pin through all these holes and into the center of the X. Push the pin into a balsa wood stick, which serves as the handle.

3. Use a 1/2-inch piece of drinking straw as a spacer between the pinwheel and the stick.

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