I might seem a little strange in saying this – I’ve been accused of worse names, I’m sure – but I’m beginning to think that Independence Day is one of my favorite holidays. No, I don’t get any yearly gifts on July 4. It just seems like it is one of the only special days of the year that I still get excited about a few days ahead of time and don’t feel let down after it is over. When I expressed this realization to my fiancée, Alayna, on the way home from Bostwick last Friday night, she too seemed a little puzzled by the fact that I’m beginning to place Independence Day over the heavyweights of holidays, such as Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Then, she thought a little about the way I have celebrated July 4 – which she claims is different than the way others celebrate it – for most of the years of my life, and came up with my holiday routine as the reason why I like it more than the others. So, in order to shed a little light on the subject for the rest of you, I’ll give you a quick rundown of what I did last Friday. Alayna and I woke up here in Madison about 6:45 a.m. and quickly got ready so I could be in downtown Bostwick by 7:30 a.m. Once there, my uncles, my father, my cousins, my brother, and – last but not least – myself first load a trailer full of tables and then a table full of chairs to be taken down into the pecan grove in downtown Bostwick, where the annual barbecue is held.

Once in the grove, the tables and chairs were set up, and we prepared the three serving lines with everything they will need during the day. There was a pause in the action until about 11 or 11:30 a.m., when the powers that be decided that it is time to start serving, and the first shipments of Brunswick stew and barbecue came across from where they had been cooking all night beside the Masonic lodge. From the beginning until the last customer came through the line about two hours later, I was on my feet, rushing between the serving lines to determine which one needs what, with only a short break for a plate of my own somewhere in between.

Once the lines started to be shut down as the demand decreased, there is another slight lull, and then the morning’s table routine started all over again but in reverse. After everything was back in place and in order, I rushed back to my grandparents’ house, where I was able to knock off the sweat and grime with one single jump into the swimming pool. Usually, there is no grand meal prepared, since everybody is too stuffed from lunch to care much about food, but this year my cousin Lee and his wife Sally treated us all with a low country boil.

And to round off the evening, the family was able to enjoy two wonderful – but probably illegal – firework displays, which were being held not a half-mile from the house. With all that taken into consideration, I hope that my holiday preference seems less strange. Each year, a few dozen people come together in Bostwick to make sure a tradition that began in the 1950s keeps going by creating a meal that is hard to beat anywhere at any price. In fact, I’ll often question someone’s judgment concerning “good” barbecue and stew if they admit that they’ve never been to Bostwick for a plate on July 4. It’s a lot of work, but all of the volunteers show how much they care about their town and their community by the amount of effort they dedicate to the Bostwick barbecue each year. I can’t imagine any other way to celebrate Independence Day. Actually, I’m not really sure how other people celebrate July 4.