Revelers at Lawrence Go Fourth describe what Independence Day means to them

photo by: Jackson Barton

Martika Daniels, 29, is pictured at the Lawrence Go Fourth celebration on July 4, 2019 at Burcham Park.

The Lawrence Journal-World asked attendees and performers at the Lawrence Go Fourth celebration at Burcham Park what the national holiday meant to them.

Ian Sotomeyer, 43, performed his DJ set to open up the event early in the evening. He said the holiday represents a time for his family to come together and appreciate all that they have, and of course, set off fireworks.

“My brother and my father and I, we’re pyromaniacs,” Sotomeyer said. “I can remember taking this time to light up a bunch of ‘works with cousins and family members.”

A second-generation Mexican American, Sotomeyer said his family came to the United States to find greater opportunities. He said he feels blessed and proud to be an American, because it allows him to carve his own path and make his passion for performing as a DJ his livelihood.

photo by: Jackson Barton

Ian Sotomeyer, 43, performs his DJ set for attendees during the Lawrence Go Fourth celebration at Burcham Park on July 4, 2019.

“Despite the times and whatever politics makes sense, I still believe America is the greatest country in the world,” Sotomeyer said. “I believe that the opportunity one has to pursue their artform … to have the opportunity to entertain people, that’s something I feel really proud of.”

Jules Richardson, 57, said she and her husband usually attend the annual party at Burcham Park with a mattress to enjoy the live music and firework display. This year they opted for bright pink and yellow yard chairs instead. Richardson said they celebrate the holiday by attending the local festival, while also recognizing the service of members of the military.

“My son having served, we celebrate that we live freely,” Richardson said.

photo by: Jackson Barton

Jules Richardson, 57, is pictured at the Lawrence Go Fourth celebration at Burcham Park on July 4, 2019.

Standing with his friends by the river bank, Collin Cox, 22, said this was the first Fourth of July in several years he has spent outdoors. He said one of his Fourth of July memories with his family involved a firework mishap.

“It fell over and shot toward my great grandma,” Cox said. “That was exciting, that was something you can’t really come back from.”

photo by: Jackson Barton

Collin Cox is pictured at Burcham park celebrating the Fourth of July on July 4, 2019. Cox said patriotism means using the freedom of expression to be himself and fight societal standards in his way.

To Martika Daniels, 29, this Fourth of July is just another day at the office. As an international circus and sideshow performer, she said she gets plenty of bookings to perform on the holiday. While preparing for her performance, she explained that people often mix up patriotism and nationalism around the holiday.

“Patriotism to me, personally, means you love your country, you understand the good, the bad, the ugly, and you still love it,” Daniels said. “It’s being aware of who you are and the history of (the U.S.).”

Daniels said she identifies nationalism as ignoring history and previous mistakes in the pursuit of appearing perfect. She said she wants people to revisit their history to avoid making the same mistakes.

“Every country has problems, and America is no different,” Daniels said. “I think people forget. Because we forget, we end up in places where we currently are. Repeating itself.”

Preparing her hula hoops before her acrobatic performance, Ashley Zigenbein, 32, said the holiday feeds her inner pyromaniac.

photo by: Jackson Barton

Ashley Zigenbein, 32, prepares to perform her hoop act at the Lawrence Go Fourth celebration at Burcham Park on July 4, 2019.

“I get to blow stuff up,” Zigenbein said. “Do I need another reason?”

Zigenbein said although she disapproves of President Donald Trump, she appreciates the nation as a whole.

“It’s nice being in a place where we have the freedom to do things like this,” Zigenbein said. “We are definitely blessed.”

Related coverage

July 4, 2019: Photo gallery: Lawrence Go Fourth 2019

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