Because of pandemic timing, the last time I offered up culture suggestions for July was in 2019. Here is something I said:

“I still like so much of the revelry that surrounds the 4th. But honestly, it’s really hard to be excited about a country that — drags out soapbox — is currently holding children in deplorable conditions and elected a person whose denial of raping someone includes the phrase “she’s not my type” and who thinks “busing” merely indicates a mode of transportation for getting children to school. And those are just the issues we’re talking about in this particular moment. So no Lee Greenwood, I’m not always proud to be an American, but I think that’s okay. I think we can have a complicated relationship with this country. We can appreciate the good things and call out the bad things. We can celebrate the 4th with our family and friends while remembering that being patriotic is not blind allegiance. We can support the troops while also standing behind Colin Kaepernick and Megan Rapinoe when they don’t participate in the National Anthem. During this week of attending all the patriotic displays, also find where you can support those who are out there pushing back, and keep calling your reps and holding their feet to the fire on important issues.”


Oh 2019 Julie. You did not know what was looming on the horizon. Shit just keeps getting darker in this country. 2022 Julie is way more tired and disillusioned than 2019 Julie. 

However.

I still like fun and festivities. Fireworks still make me smile (except the ones in my neighborhood that turn my dog into a complete mess). I like gathering with friends, grilling hot dogs, and drinking beer. I still don’t like hearing that stupid Lee Greenwood song. I still don’t like blind patriotism and the notion that I have to be proud to be an American. I still see the need and with each day the absolute necessity of action. Yes, voting. Voting is great. Hopefully all of you did that this week. But also donating, calling, texting, writing, organizing, and elevating the voices of those who have been doing the work for a very long time. Sometimes it all feels fruitless, but we still need to do it. So, with all that said:

Celebrate America?

July 4th can be whatever you want it to be. If you want to go to a parade, have a big BBQ, gather with the crowds to watch a fireworks display, wave an American flag, you go do it. Here is some info about those things:

The Champaign County Freedom Celebration 5K and then parade are happening the morning of July 4th, with the run at 9:05 a.m and the parade at 11:05 a.m. The fireworks will once again launch from the E-14 parking lot just west of the State Farm Center. Music and kids activities start at 7 p.m. at Kirby and Oak Street, and the fireworks will begin around 9:15 p.m. If you'd like to watch from a distance, Everyday Kitchen will have brats and burgers and an outdoor bar. You can dine on the patio and have a clear view of the display.

You can find a full list of area fireworks displays here.

No matter what you do, maybe consider getting involved in some sort of action, however small, to advance good things in our community and beyond. Volunteer, donate money, get involved in local elections. It's all important.

A garden at Japan House with a stone statue and water feature in the center. They are surrounded by green leafy bushes and trees. Photo from Japan House Facebook page.Photo by Julie McClure.

Bathe in the forest at Japan House

I’m all for more opportunities to experience the wonderful little oasis that is Japan House. This spring and summer, they have been hosting Shinrin Onyoku, or forest bathing, on the third Sunday of every month. Each event is free to attend. On July 17th beginning at 4:30 p.m., enjoy electronic instrumental music from Salaryman while you take in the beauty of the Japan House grounds, and try some treats from the Matcha Cafe. You can pre-order this month’s featured item for $10: Hiyashi Chuka. It’s a “chilled Ramen dish with kinshi tamago (shredded egg crepe), cucumber, red bell pepper, ham, imitation crab, and carrots.” You can order a vegan version without the egg, ham, and crab. Find the full menu of items on the event page

A dirt arena filled with several beat up cars, driving into each other. There is a grandstand filled with spectators in the background. Photo from Champaign County Fair Facebook page.Photo from Champaign County Fair Facebook page.

Watch the demo derby and have some fair food

I don’t do fair rides anymore, but fair food is fair game. Besides washing down a Pronto Pup with a lemon shake up (seriously, this is the vendor to visit), my other favorite fair experience is the demolition derby. I honestly don’t know why. Maybe there is something cathartic about watching cars smash into each other until they are “limping” out of the arena. We’re all in a destructive sort of mood, right? The derby is on July 23rd at 6:30 p.m. The Champaign County Fair runs from July 22-30. 

A performer on a stage. She is dressed in all black, and kneeling on one leg with the other outstretched. Her arms are outstretched with green glowing ropes wrapped around them. Photo by Candie Kates Photography.Photo by Candie Kates Photography.

Nerd out with Carnivale Debauche

If you’ve never been to a Carnivale Debauche show, please take the next opportunity, on July 30th at Seven Saints. This uniquely C-U burlesque troupe has been around for more than 10 years, and has morphed as performers have come and gone in this transient town, but you can always expect a marvelous, sexy, possibly astonishing spectacle. I’m slightly biased, as I’ve danced with and learned from some of the performers who also share their talents at Defy Gravity, but these performances are pure creative joy. They are reviving their Nerdlesque theme of a few years ago, so expect to see all sorts of geeky goodness, and be sure to bring your dollars to show your appreciation. Cosplay is welcomed and encouraged. Get your tickets soon!

Top photo by Sam Logan.