by Diana Cook
While the spring weather has been enough to keep anyone guessing, with high temps early then days and days of rain, right around the corner sweet summer days are beckoning one and all - rising high on the horizon. All this sunshine and rain will surely set the stage for a growing season of sweet and savory tastes, and inspire daydreams of relaxing moments by the river, carefree fun beyond backyard borders, and the bringing together of family and friends for community great gatherings around Phoenix. And to make it all seem real, the joys of summer are marked with one of the community’s greatest celebration weekends, beginning on Friday, June 22.
The achievement of 2012 graduates will first be marked, actually beginning on Thursday, June 21 with one of the most touching elements of Phoenix school culture ... a baccalaureate service at 7 p.m. in the John C. Birdlebough High School auditorium. This inspiring event brings together those who have cared for and supported young minds and hearts throughout their growing up years. Clergy from local churches share special messages of hope, students share readings and thoughts for fellow grads, and teachers too get in on sharing words of wisdom. There are even songs sure to tug at heart strings of family and friends gathered together in this unique opportunity to offer joyful celebration along with dreams for the future.
On Friday, inspiration takes a different turn, lifting up the sweetest of strawberry dreams along Main Street, followed by the bright blast-off of a phenomenal fireworks adventure down by the river.
The annual Strawberry Festival hosted by St. Stephen’s Church gets underway on Friday afternoon, June 22 beginning at 4 p.m. and lasting until 8 p.m. In addition to favorite foods, the festival will feature a wide variety of entertainment activities and games for the whole family. Meal time choices from the Snack Shack include chicken barbecue, hamburgers, hot dogs, pulled pork, sausage sandwiches and more, along with favorite and fresh sweet strawberry concoctions for dessert. Volunteers will be whipping up another frenzy of famous strawberry frulattes - made with strawberries, milk, ice cream and sugar - to tempt sweet palettes from all over town.
Children’s games, face painting, a country store, and theme basket raffle are among featured favorites at the festival. Entertainment fun is sure to include the spinning of tap and tunes as community residents enjoy a repast before heading down to Henley Park to take everyone towards family time and fireworks.
Starting in the afternoon, crowds gather and grow like ground-cover, quickly spreading across Henley Park in anticipation of what the night will bring. Families arrive with lawn chairs, coolers and blankets to claim their celebratory spot and visit with friends, old and new, until darkness falls. A few might even remember to bring umbrellas this year - insurance against the weather considering the downpouring show adventure of last year - but hope for a starry, starry night of sparkling delight. Children laugh and play amid ice cream cone chaos, wielding wild sparklers and neon lights along their way, as throngs of people settle in for an afternoon into evening of hometown music enjoyment before those annual fireworks light the night sky.
Hometown rockers, the Nite Life band will start up their act, from 7-9 p.m., to get everyone in festive mode, even as the water color sunset drops in to set the summer atmosphere, encouraging everyone to enjoy the water and parkside ambiance.
Out on the river, the peaceful water will begin to welcome free floating boating spectators, and along the docks, boats line up, double parked, in anticipation of the dazzling waterfront show which begins at dusk, a showcase highlighting one of the biggest and best fireworks displays in the county. Organized by the Phoenix Community and Youth Council, the fireworks spectacular in Phoenix starbursts sparks high overhead, reflected in the mirror of a watery backdrop, bringing on cheers, applause, and childlike summer wonder once again.
And then, as if the whirlwind of Friday festival time isn’t enough to take one’s breath away, Saturday brings the class of 2012 to the commencement stage for a traditional pomp and circumstance of graduation, sending another generation off into fabulous futures ahead.
The last weekend in June has become one that sets the standard for celebration, community and new beginnings around Phoenix. It not only marks ceremonial traditions for family and friends, but also, welcomes in all that lies ahead for the summer, lifting off the season in celebration style. Right away, Henley Park comes to life ... ushering in daily dockside service from the Bridge House Brats for breakfast and lunch, Music in the Park concerts, and more festivals to come. Those sumptuous servings of strawberries and cream delight ... and a star-filled night of firework bursts and bottle rockets ... come pretty close to reflecting the best of community coming together. Some would even say it’s the perfect way to spark some excitement for what’s wonderful about all of what summer brings around Phoenix.