On July 4, Los Alamos residents poured out of the laboratory and into the streets displaying vibrant colors of red, white and blue.
Independence Day in Los Alamos kicked off with its annual 5k Firecracker Fun Run. A few hours afterwards, the exhausted runners cleared the way for excited children parading down Central Avenue in the traditional Fourth of July Children’s Parade. Relatives of the paraders lined the sidewalks, marveling at the brightly decorated outfits, bicycles and scooters rolling past.
Bill Hamilton, who has been a Los Alamos resident for twenty-two years, said the Children’s Parade has been the holiday tradition for as long as he can remember.
“I just love seeing the kids being goofy, putting on a show and marching around,” he said.
Maggie, eight years old, said she participates in the parade every year she can. When asked what she loves about the parade, she remarked on all the red, white and blue hues, saying that blue especially is her favorite color.
Lena Romero, who is about to enter Los Alamos Middle School, regards the Children’s Parade as a family tradition.
“I really like having fun with my family and doing activities with them,” she said.
Libby Nolen, 12 years old, participated in her first Children’s Parade this year. She walked down Central alongside her cousin, Lily, who is seven years old. Lily was excited to show off her patriotic face paint as well as her new bike-riding skills in the parade.
Another timeless tradition for Los Alamos is the July 4 ceremony the town’s four outdoor pools individually put on. The Daily Lobo specifically covered the festivities at Canyon Vista Pool Association, which annually makes Independence Day special by decorating their diving boards with streamers, organizing a barbecue and coordinating competitions throughout the day.
The most well-known of these activities is Greased Watermelon. In this game, two teams start on opposite ends of the pool and must bring a watermelon to their opponent’s pool gutter in order to score points. To make the game even more challenging, the watermelon is covered in petroleum jelly to render it as slippery as possible. There is an event for children and one for adults.
10-year-old Reece Alcouffe and his twin sister, Cadence, played their first game of Greased Watermelon this year. While Reece observed that the people playing Greased Watermelon with him were “acting a little crazy,” Cadence said the experience was fun and thought the watermelon’s slippery surface was particularly funny.
Nikolas Wilde, who is a longtime member of Canyon Vista as well as previously a lifeguard at the pool, fondly recalls his experiences with Greased Watermelon. Now a college student, Wilde returns annually to observe the pool’s Independence Day festivities.
“Greased Watermelon is a wonderful tradition. It’s what everyone looks forward to seeing every year. I always reminisce of my old Greased Watermelon stories of being punched in the face,” he joked.
The Los Alamos Fourth of July celebration closed with the fireworks show at Overlook Park. The fireworks show has been put on by Los Alamos’ Kiwanis Club since 1985 at Overlook Park, known for it’s stunning overhead views of New Mexico’s famed mesas and the Rio Grande.
Morris Pongratz, a longtime member of Kiwanis, explained that the fireworks show is made possible by donation money raised from turnout at the previous year’s show. His favorite part of the show is watching the crowd’s elated reactions as Kiwanis’ efforts pay off.
“The motto of Kiwanis is serving the children of the world, and we serve the children of Los Alamos," Pongratz said. "They love fireworks. I hope the show is an integral part of Los Alamos July fourth traditions, and it certainly is a signature event for our Kiwanis Club.”
After the last firework of the evening lit up the sky, a cheer resounded from Los Alamos residents, who then brandished sparklers and threw POP-ITS for the remainder of the night.
Beatrice Nisoli is a freelance news reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @BeatriceNisoli