The obvious choice for lead topic this week is the annual 4th in the Park Parade & Picnic, what a wonderful celebration! Parade starts at 11 am from Luther Place and makes its way down Como Ave to Langford Park where the bandstand program includes the patriotic essays, elected official greetings and the Foundation's Spirit of the Park Award.

This year's Spirit winners are Julie Glowka and Cindy Thrasher who have had a hand in shepherding this extravaganza for the past two decades. They have wrangled volunteers, organized events, procured city & state permits, and dealt with food, music, police, ponies, games, and everything you see and experience on the 4th. They have been faithful keepers of the flame and will now pass it off to a new generation lead by Jeanne Hansen, Emma Seeley and Josh Becerra to name a few. Make sure you say thanks on the 4th or whenever you next have the opportunity, Cindy & Julie have done a great service to our community.

By the way, make sure and stick around for the 4:15 concert by Denny & the Dawgs at the bandstand. Neighbor Denny Olsen will be slapping the skins to propel this popular rock 'n roll band. Looks like it's going to be a beautiful day, so plan bring chairs or a blanket and get ready to groove.

July is "Celebrate Your Independents" month for our independent businesses, so get out and vote for your favorite retailers by buying local. Visit the MetroIBA website for more info on prizes and promotions throughout the month. Community events like the 4th always remind me that our business community is very supportive of not only the big events like the 4th, but also of the many smaller fundraisers, especially those involving our schools and kids. Big Box stores all have some form of charitable giving, but it's higher level and they certainly do not support the elementary school carnival or library or music programs or the bugle or the myriad of important neighborhood causes that our local businesses write out checks to on a monthly basis. We need them and they need us.

If you need a reminder that summer is a time to pay special attention to criminal activity in the neighborhood, the listserv has had several reports of the typical seasonal theft of bikes from garages, even when the homeowner was nearby. There was also a report of suspicious activity near Commonwealth & Gordon, a couple guys seemingly casing homes in the wee hours. A neighbor who observed them called police who picked them up and found burglary tools in their car. So pay attention and report suspicious activity.

Movies at the Library - "42", the story of Jackie Robinson will be shown at our branch library Thursday, July 10 at 1pm. all ages welcome, light refreshments served.

That's all for now. Take care of yourself and be a good neighbor...and enjoy the 4th wherever you are.

Final thought: take a moment to reflect on what it is that makes us celebrate our country's birth. We certainly will hear the familiar themes around freedom and patriotism, but at the heart of it all is community. To borrow from Murray's ongoing school motto, "We're more alike than different." A challenging concept in this day and age but one that deserves our best efforts. Happy Birthday, U.S.A.