Our View: Independence celebrated for a reason | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Independence celebrated for a reason

— It's been a tough couple of years for many local families and businesses.

The economic recession has hurt Steamboat Springs and Routt County more than many of us could have imagined. Cash-strapped Americans have less money to spend, and vacations to places like the Yampa Valley are often the first extravagances to go. The slowdown in the real estate, construction and retail industries has put many locals out of work. Unable to make mortgage payments, more residents than ever before have gone into foreclosure on their homes.

Adding insult to injury, a much-needed but unfortunately timed U.S. Highway 40 construction project through the heart of downtown Steamboat brought further pain to local businesses and residents.

In the midst of all this hardship comes the Fourth of July weekend. Independence Day. A celebration of the very best of the United States of America — personal freedoms, democracy and opportunity.

It's hard to imagine a better place to spend the holiday weekend than Steamboat Springs and Routt County. As has become typical, the city will play host to numerous events throughout the weekend, from professional rodeos to summer ski jumping to a fireworks display that has become a huge attraction in its own right.

There are other positives. Lincoln Avenue construction has come to a halt for the next two months or so. Traveling through our city is easy again. To celebrate, Mainstreet Steamboat Springs board members and volunteers are stepping out Thursday to wash downtown storefronts and windows for free, part of an effort to help spruce up the historic shopping district by metaphorically — and literally — wiping away the construction dirt.

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Visitors are coming here for baseball tournaments, art festivals, biking and running events and other fun summertime activities in the mountains. The Chamber expects Fourth of July tourism to be up from what it was last year.

This action-packed weekend should serve as a reminder of why it's so wonderful to call the Yampa Valley home. And as we gather with friends and family at backyard barbecues, local restaurants, the rodeo arena, along Lincoln Avenue for the July 4 parade or outside Tread of Pioneers Museum for the annual Fourth of July Pioneers Day Block Party, let's not lose sight of why July 4 is our Independence Day.

After several days of debate, representatives of the second Continental Congress voted July 4, 1776, to accept the Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson and first reviewed by his colleagues John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. With 26 changes to the original draft, John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress, was the first to sign. The 13 colonies officially had proclaimed their freedom from British rule. For all practical purposes, the United States was born.

The first celebration of the signing was held July 4 of the very next year. America's birthday has been an annual event ever since.

There were no guarantees 234 years ago that we still would be celebrating Independence Day today as the United States of America.

Let's remember the courage and vision of our forefathers as we watch the fireworks explode over Howelsen Hill on Sunday. No matter how difficult our lives have been during the past couple of years, or what obstacles may lay ahead, let's not forget that we live in one of the greatest nations on Earth.