By Curt Yeomans
During a "Patriotic Celebration" on Wednesday at the Morrow branch of the Clayton County Library System, 50 children learned about Revolutionary War-era politician, Patrick Henry, and his legendary statement of "Give me liberty, or give me death!"
The youths also sang about the nation's "amber waves of grain" and "purple mountain majesties," during a rendition of "America the Beautiful." Then they sang about "Yankee Doodle," and his trip to town "a-riding on a pony," while sticking "a feather in his hat" and calling it "macaroni."
The children were participating in the first day of the library's 10th annual, two-day, pre-Fourth of July "Patriotic Celebration," in which they learned about the annual holiday and made patriotic-themed crafts.
"The whole goal is to teach the kids about the Fourth of July and patriotism," said Janice Arcuria, the library system's assistant director of children services, during a break from leading the young patriots from one activity to another. "The reason why we do it in June is because a lot of the kids are gone the week of the Fourth of July. They are out of town and on vacation with their families."
The celebration, which required pre-registration for children, will be held again today. This time, the number of participants will have more than doubled to 108 children - if everyone who signed up, shows up, Arcuria said.
The event included a viewing of a movie about the life of Benjamin Franklin, and storytelling, with tales about Patrick Henry and Johnny Appleseed. The children also had watermelon and hot-dogs for lunch, and made crafts, such as American flags, "colonial" hats, and American flag-themed, paper-plate hats. Each child received a gift bag that contained Flag Day-and Fourth of July-themed coloring books, Arcuria said.
Adults, who brought their children or grandchildren, and other adults, who volunteered to work at the event, said they welcomed the celebration as an opportunity to teach young children about why the nation was founded, and what the Fourth of July is about.
Volunteer Ginger Diggs, a retired Clayton County teacher, who came as a volunteer from the Morrow Civic Woman's Club, pointed to election-related riots in Tehran, Iran as an example of why children should be taught about patriotism.
"At this time, it's important that we instill that patriotism in them at an early age, given what's going on right now [in Iran]," Diggs said.
"It's important to start teaching these things to children when they are in pre-school," said Rex resident, Shawn D'Avilar, a pre-school teacher, who brought her granddaughter, Auiana D'Avilar, 4. "That's the age when they start to grasp everything that's going on around them."
Kathy Peacock, a teacher from the Lollipop Kids Day Care Center in Forest Park, who brought her 14 students to the celebration, said she felt the event is important because it gives the children a broader understanding of the Fourth of July's meaning. "It is real important because they need to learn some of this, like what it means to have pride in your country," Peacock said. "A lot of them think you just have a party and throw some fireworks."
For some children, however, the library's celebration brought forth a mixture of images, where fireworks and service men and women come to mind. Ellenwood resident, Ariana Rivas, 7, who attended the celebration with her family, said she was reminded of the Fourth of July, and of the military. Her father, retired Army Staff Sgt. Pedro Rivas, fought in Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
"It reminds me of the fourth of July, and fireworks, and a picture of my dad in his uniform that hangs in our living room," Ariana Rivas said. "I'm always fixing it, because it keeps ending up crooked."
Rex residents, Tori Pippins, 11, and her friend, Myeshia Rivers, 10, said the event also made them think about their parents, who are current and former servicemen and women. Pippins' mother and father, Sgt. Angela Pippins and Sgt. Charlie Pippins, are currently in the Army. Rivers' father, Mike, is a retired marine.
"It reminds me of the United States, and how people in the military help us by fighting in wars to protect our freedoms," Tori Pippins said.
"It just reminds me of the marines," Myeshia Rivers said. "They just help us by protecting us."
For some of the children, though, the enjoyment of the celebration came just from having an opportunity to show their patriotism. "Making the flag was really fun, because it shows you're very proud of your country," said Ellenwood resident, Emilee Ruiz, 7.