Central Park brimmed with stars and stripes Monday. Flags flew from almost every conceivable surface. Several people wore plastic Uncle Sam hats. Old Glory adorned the faces of school-aged children in the form of face paint. One toddler’s T-Shirt read “Free to be cool.”
The park, located at 900 Kiely Blvd. in Santa Clara, teemed with people for the Independence Day celebration. People set up tents, enjoyed barbecue, pushed children on swings and listened to music that seemed to pour directly from the trees.
Edith Barbosa, 17, of Menlo Park, came out with her father Isidro Sanchez and her six younger sisters. As the oldest of the bunch, she said the event was a good way to spend time with the family playing volleyball and enjoying the nice weather.
“And also celebrating the importance of what happened (the American Revolution),” she said. “Fourth of July is a basic symbol of freedom … especially freedom of speech. It ensures that everyone has a voice. Nobody should stay silent and let someone speak for them.”
The Santa Clara parks and recreation department sponsored the celebration. The event featured a flag dedication ceremony with comments from Mayor Lisa Gillmor, carnival games and face painting for children, free public swimming, and of course the main event: a fireworks display after sunset.
Stephanie Martinez, 20 of Sunnyvale, said the holiday is just a time to spend with friends. Some coworkers invited her to the gala, so she opted to stay in town instead of heading to San Francisco as she has done for the past few years.
The local event is much more relaxed, she said.
“There is a lot of people, but you don’t feel crowded,” she said.
People strolled around licking ice cream cones or gnashing on meat slathered in barbecue sauce while others lined up at food trucks selling Argentinian food and even chili.
Malli Palle, 27, of Santa Clara, and his wife Priyanka Chama, 27, came to the United States after Chama got short-term work as a software engineer. They said they were intrigued by the celebration because there are not as many large public gatherings in the U.S. as in their home country of India.
“It is very similar,” Palle said. “But there is more music. In India, there is not much music. The music is prayer … here it is a lot cleaner, too.”
Community information groups such as the Santa Clara First Baptist Church and a voter registration booth were scattered throughout. In another section, jump houses played host to dozens of rowdy children.
Just outside the entrance to the park John and Tracy Guerrero, both 47, of Santa Clara, sat on a blanket overlooking the ravine. Park regulations prohibited them from bringing their 1.5-year-old Rottweiler Gemma any farther into the park.
The couple came out to the July 4 celebration for the first time despite living in Santa Clara for more than a decade. Tracy said the celebration is important as a catalyst to cause people to reflect on their freedom and what it means.
John, who wore a camouflage ball cap with an American flag on it, said people don’t know their neighbors, which causes many problems because people are disconnected from their communities.
“Nobody talks to people anymore,” he said. “Your freedom ends when you come to my home and tell me what to do … I don’t come to your house and tell you how to raise your kids. Let’s start talking to each other instead of demanding … what you do behind closed doors is your business”.
Tracy said as time goes on we tend to lose more of our freedoms, so we should come together more often to celebrate those freedoms to recognize them and hopefully preserve them.