Marquette’s Centennial Fourth of July

Happy Independence Day, everyone! I hope you have a wonderful time filled with family, friends, fun, fireworks, picnics and parades. Last year I posted a passage from my novel Iron Pioneers depicting Marquette’s first Fourth of July celebrations in 1855, which you can read here.

This year, I am posting one of my favorite passages from The Queen City describing the celebration of the Fourth of July and specifically the centennial celebrations in 1949. This scene takes place at Memorial Field (where today the Berry Events Center is) where the fireworks used to be shot off before being moved to the Lower Harbor Park. The characters in the novel have been reminiscing about Marquette’s past just prior to the passage, which is why Roy comments, “Someone should write this down.”

I hope this passage inspires you to appreciate our wonderful small-town America and the gift of independence that our Founding Fathers gave to us. Happy Fourth!

From The Queen City, the Marquette Trilogy: Book Three:

“Someone,” said Roy, “should write all this down. Marquette is the finest city ever, and since our family is part of its history, neither should be forgotten.”

Everyone nodded in agreement, but writing Marquette’s history seemed too daunting a task for any of them. Not one felt confident with pen and paper.

“Hello, Roy,” said a young man passing by. “How are you?”

“Hi, Fred. Everyone, this here is Fred Rydholm,” Roy introduced. “He works with me up at the Club. He drove the Club’s car in the parade today.”

Everyone greeted Fred. Introductions were made and remarks exchanged about how impressive the parade had been. Then Fred said goodbye and walked away. One day, Fred Rydholm would pen two mammoth volumes detailing the history of the iron ore industry, the founding of Marquette and the Huron Mountain Club, and the Upper Peninsula’s important role in American history.

“How long before the fireworks start?” asked Ellen.

“Can’t we go home?” Jimmy complained. “It’s cold out here, and fireworks are boring anyway.”

“Don’t be a creampuff,” his grandmother teased. “The fireworks will be marvelous. This has been the best Fourth in the North.”

At that moment, the first loud cracking thunder broke. Memorial Field was packed with thousands of city residents and visitors who lifted their eyes to the glorious explosions in the night sky. Pink blazing sparks spread in every direction. Then a burst of blue, an explosion of green, a shot of white, a spray of orange, then yellow, then blue again, and red, and green, and blue, and orange, and yellow, and pink, and white. Burst after burst, straight firing white lines, kaleidoscopic green, pink, purple, all at once. One separate firework to mark each year of Marquette’s history. Up into the sky they shot in shimmering streaks like a hundred candles blazing on a bombastic birthday cake. Ellen covered her ears; the fireworks were so delightfully loud.

Henry leaned over to kiss his wife’s cheek.

“Ouch, that tickles,” Beth giggled. “When will you shave off that silly beard?”

“First thing tomorrow morning,” he promised, “but you have to admit it looks pretty good for having been grown so quickly.”

“Shh, Daddy, you’re missing the fireworks,” Ellen scolded.

Henry and Beth both chuckled, glad to see their daughter happy. They were happy themselves. They were back where they belonged, in their hometown for its centennial, which they would not have missed for anything. Henry thought back on all of Marquette’s remarkable history, the raising of the courthouse, the library, the banks, the houses, the bravery of its people, the struggles through fires and blizzards, economic woes and wars. He thought of the ore docks, those formidable giants of the iron industry, stretching out into the world’s greatest lake as emissaries to distant lands. For a hundred years, from Iron Bay, the Upper Peninsula’s riches had been shipped out to bolster a nation, yet Marquette had scarcely received mention in a history book. Many people could not even pronounce its name, much less find it on a map. But its Northern sons and daughters knew the great privilege they shared in living here. They knew Nature had blessed them by giving them this land of pristine beauty, mighty forests, fresh air, and remarkable weather. Henry and Beth were grateful to have been born here, and thankful they had been wise enough to return. Thousands that night felt in their hearts what Henry spoke as he turned to Beth.

“We truly do live in THE QUEEN CITY OF THE NORTH.”

Explore posts in the same categories: Marquette History, Tyler's Novels, Upper Michigan Books and Authors, Upper Michigan History

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