Saugatuck – I spent Independence Day in Saugatuck. It is one of my favorite small towns. Very Americana but in an unusual way. It is a resort town with sailboats and leisure craft boats mostly coming in from Chicago and other points up and down Lake Michigan. At one time, it was known as an artist colony and it still has all sorts of art galleries and interesting shops with not a McDonald’s hamburger in sight.
When I was 19, I spent the summer working as an apprentice at the Red Barn Theatre, a professional summer stock theater located just outside of town. It was quite an eye opener to a naïve girl from suburbia. I learned about alternative lifestyles, unrequited love, married love affairs and friends coming out of the closet. It was the summer that I became an adult. I cannot say it was an enjoyable experience but it was quite an educational one.
Free association for that period in my life: Coral Gables, ice cream, watching Kilwin’s homemade fudge being made, the Doo-dah lady, Christmas in July, exploding dryers, learning to count back change, sleeping in the cabin on the sofa with my feet hanging over the edge, listening to “Being Alive” backstage and tearing up, setting up TV’s all over the theater during intermission to watch Nixon resign.
Today, the Red Barn is an antique mall, but the theater still seems to be around and used for community presentations. I still make the trek back to visit the town at least once a year to visit my favorite shops and mingle with the boat people and their dogs. This year I had no money to spend, but it was a beautiful day and I wanted to make my annual pilgrimage.
I got there just in time for the parade. I love the parade. It’s the kind of small town parade that has kids with decorated bikes and scooters and politicians pressing palms. Betsy Ross sits on a decorated flatbed with a knitted flag, the boy scouts march and the sheriff patrol ride by in horses. Colonial soldiers fire flintlocks and make babies cry, and little boys are fascinated by the antique fire trucks turning on their sirens. The kids scramble for candy thrown. All the local organizations are represented. Even though I don’t stay for the fireworks it was worth the price of gas.