A KMGS 4th of July

The Kettle Moraine Geological Society (KMGS) celebrated the 241st anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, by attending and hosting an exhibit at the Germantown, Wisconsin post Parade event on Tuesday the 4th of July. It was true Americana!

The weather was sunny and warm in the upper seventy’s to near eighty, the cloudless sky created a perfectly natural theater for the parade, and for families to follow along the parade route to the Fireman’s’ Park, and community celebration.  The summer air was filled with music, laughter, and the smells of roasted corn, bratwursts, burgers, and all the wares of a summer cookout and picnic.  The vibrant green grass stood out in contrast to the brown sand of the ball diamond, as it blended into the backdrop of tall oak trees, and the pavilions, where the local Community groups sold refreshments, and provided the much needed seating at picnic tables; strewn about the park for eating and resting.

Being one of the “regular invitees” to be at the celebration, the Kettle Moraine Geological Society has traditionally been a popular stop for adults and children alike. We arrived early and began erecting the pipe frame exhibit tent perfectly nested between two enormous oak trees, which provided much appreciated shade, as well as some protection from the unwanted event of rain. The ten by twenty canopy provided some additional shade, from the sunlight that filtered between the leaves and branches. Even the canopy itself drew attention, as it was a “Real-Tree ®” print and the camouflage style, was a start contrast the typical white tents and roofs that decorated the perimeter of the event. Then we scurried about to arrange the five full length tables under the canopy, to maximize exposure, while allowing for traffic flow to make the stop at out event an easy and accessible experience. We also commandeered a nearby open air picnic table, to provide additional room for the broad range of displays, specimens, games and activities we had become known to provide to the guests.

As the parade ended and the community made its way toward the park, it was fun to see the broad range and array of the people as they represented such a vast display of the community. Most notably the Veterans, whose undying patriotism was on full display ranging from their standing at attention and saluting, as the flag passed by in the parade, to the tiny flag pin on their shirt collar or lapel. Old men who served this nation decades ago in Europe and the Pacific, their sons and daughters who fought in Southeast Asia, to young men women who most recently served in the deserts of the Middle East. All exhibiting a respect and honor for the flag of the country to which they dedicated at least a portion of their life too, as they remembered their fallen friends and memories of their past, when they were the front line in the fight for freedom and liberty, that the rest of us too often take for granted. It was obvious by their expressions and emotions that their commitment is still dear in their hearts, souls and minds.

Throngs of families, pushing strollers, and pulled wagons carrying the bags, blankets, collapsible chairs or backpacks, filled with all the necessities of a day away from home.  Little boys waving flags, and little girls in sundresses, scurried about waving flags, while parents struggled to keep them in sight, as they too strolled between the trees, enjoying the shade, as a welcomed relief from the late morning sun, which had baked and burned their faces from watching the passing hour long parade.  The summer breeze brought just enough fresh air to offer some relief to the sun, and the comfortable shade fostered a relaxing environment to spend the day.

Young men full of bravado, and testosterone driven ambition, walked holding hands with young women, appropriately dressed to attract their suitors, as they strolled about, and played games of chance at the tents lined with prizes and trinkets, at the carnival like atmosphere.  While children scampered between the arrays of groups of revelers, their parents in tow as they reminisced of their own lost youth and days gone by, before adulthood and family took precedence. The smiles from the familiar memories of when the innocence of youth and carefree life, slipped away to the responsibilities we all enjoy, as we adventure into the new realities of our lives we all willingly accepted, as one generation gives way to another.

Little girls danced unashamedly along the sides of the stage, as the School Marching Bands perform to entertain the community of parents, grandparents, neighbors, while the various Cheerleaders and Dance Squads exhibit their skills and endearing moves of talent, dance and athleticism.  The patriotic songs of the season were performed by the local Glee Clubs, Choirs and Soloists. The crescendo of the sounds that filled the outdoor arena, can only be described, to be nothing less than the calming roar of a summer festival. While the line of Food Vendors scrambled to feed the multitudes of people, as seemingly endless lines of people, consumed volumes of food and beverages that are the staple of picnics and festivals, adding to the local economy as it is being done in communities across the nation.

Little boys with dreams of grandeur; gaze at the line of shiny Firetrucks and well-manicured community Emergency Vehicles on display for viewing and inspection, as the volunteers explained the innermost workings and service they provide. The young intrigued minds, watched intently and in wonderment, as they soaked up the knowledge designed for well beyond their years. Dad’s take pictures of their children, as they pose in front of; or upon, the giant and sometimes monstrous equipment, while Mom’s display apprehension of the inevitable bump or fall, from or against the equipment as a result of Dad’s behest. The lineup of vehicles and equipment also creates a makeshift barrier between the crowds of picnicking people and the rows of blue and yellow “Porta-potties” against the chain-link fence. While the fluttering yellow caution tape just beyond, cordoned off by the Fire Department, for the anticipated surprise of the fireworks reserved for the end of the day.

The patrolling Fire and Emergency Volunteers with their uniforms and emblemized T-shirts, laughed and visited with each other, sharing a comradery with the ever present uniformed Police Personal; as this is the largest accumulation of residents at any community event for the year. While under the watchful eye of the supervising adults, some of the adolescent members of the scouts and local youth groups, show their growing maturity, by being entrusted with carefully driving between the vendors and pavilions, with all-terrain vehicles to collect the growing collection of bags filled with garbage, and swiftly and efficiently replacing the bags with fresh clean ones, to discourage the flies and bees from accumulating, and keeping the park litter free and clean for the revelers.

The KMGS had a terrific view of the entire event, and the crowds as they rambled about, between and within our tent, as people of all ages were both baffled and intrigued by what we had on display. Most were surprised to even know that there was Geology based Club in the area, and all were astonished by what they saw and learned. We had many offers and suggestions on attend schools and groups to present our group to others, to which is part of the reason we were there. The focus for the eight members of “The KMGS” was to perform four objectives: (1) To provide education to anyone who was curious about the field of Geology, Mineralogy, Fossils or Earth Science, maybe even provide an introduction to the hobby of becoming a Rock Hound or a Lapidary Artist. (2) To provide fun for the children who would bring their natural curiosity to explore and their interests and questions in the Earth Science to us; to feed their thirst for knowledge. (3) To promote our club and expand the “footprint” of our organization within the local communities. (4) To have fun ourselves in the first three objectives. It was a home run!

Of course there was the large club banner perched high above the entrance to attract attention, and several smaller posters and signs to draw attention to what was available for those who chose to enter and peruse the various exhibits available. There was an exhibit about our club, our mission statement, and the benefits of membership and some pictures of the recent field trips and excursions we shared.

The main attractions for the children were the two “hands-on” interactive devices that drew them to our tent. The “Electronic Match Game” drew attention to the middle school age youths, to test their knowledge and ability to match up the specimen with the name; to see if they could light up the flashing light, and set off the audible “tune of success”, which acted as a magnet to other to see what “the tune” was about. For the middle school age and younger, even pre-school age, anytime there is a congregation of children; the curiosity to explore what was drawing their attention is overwhelming. The infamous “KMGS Sifter” which has been a part of our club exhibits for dozens of years; created much interest and would have some children returning throughout the day. Where for a token price, they could purchase a bucket of sand, “seeded” with a half dozen polished specimens, for them to shake the sifting box on the trough; constructed to emulate a sluice, where they would retrieve their “gems, jewels or specimens” for identification. Then crank the mechanism to run the belt, to move the sand out the bottom for reuse. Parents lined up to take pictures of their children “mining their treasures” or gems, to share with friends, grandparents and to keep as a memory for the future.

Over 500 children could be seen holding their clear baggie of colored polished stones, and the line was nearly non-stop. They watched in wonderment and asked endless probing questions, as we identified and explained what they had found, and a bit of information about their “find”. Who knows out of the several hundred children, how many future geologists, or Lapidary enthusiasts will be born from a simple kid’s game and entertainment activity? The worst that could happen was several hundred children went home happy just have some pretty colored stones to add to their collection.

But not to be outdone; the array of geological wonders, minerals, fossils, and other earth science materials on display also drew adults of all ages and persuasions as well. As the adults talked and asked questions, the children would stand by and watch in boredom or amazement, as the discussions continued into realms they have never been exposed to. The adults usually had many more questions and a deeper curiosity than the kids, as they examined and discussed origins, types, qualities and history of the more than a hundred rare and unique samples and exhibit specimens on display. The enjoyment and the childlike enthusiasm from the adults having their questions answered, or a lifetime curiosity being satisfied, from never knowing who to ask, or feeling foolish for asking, replaced their embarrassment or ignorance, with the satisfaction of gaining the knowledge they sought. This is a powerful message of the much needed education of our society in the lost arts of geology and earth science. So many who once were on their way to a career in; or after school, for geology and earth science, rekindled the fires of a science and reveled in the memories of a passion once though long lost. We shared stories, and interests in every aspect of the hobby, science, the earth and even careers that brought a refreshing renewal of passions, and a revival of education and memories for all to enjoy.

Having fun while learning is a powerful and enthralling motive for education. You could see the interest grow in the children’s eyes, as they learned by watching, full knowing there was much to learn as their minds expanded with every question. You could see their eyes grow with the realization that the adults also understood or confirmed what they had learned, and were opening more doors well above their level of comprehension, fueling the desire and thirst for information. Nobody left unimpressed, disappointed or unhappy, and everybody left with a flyer to our upcoming show, and many with our card and our club meeting dates in hand, making the event worthwhile and enjoyable for us who donated our time and efforts as well.

The event ended as the day gave way to evening, which slipped into the night; marked with a bang, with a forty-five minute fireworks display. Upon its conclusion the entire hillside on the far side of the park, erupted with the applause and cheers of an entire community ranging from adults to children, and everything in between for a final farewell to another Fourth of July celebration. Families returned to their cars and waited in line as the streets were clogged with people walking home in unison. The young men and women of tomorrow, took advantage of the dark corners of the park to make their final moments of the day memorable. Mothers carried their sleeping babies, as dads pulled coaster wagons and carts with sleeping or nearly sleeping children, tired and drained from the day’s excitement and the grueling “work” of having fun. Vendors broke down their tents and equipment by headlights, flashlight or lantern, as they culmination of yet another festival has ended still another episode of retail and festival sales. We loaded our makeshift “Traveling Geological Educational Tour” back into our cars and vans, as the aches and discomfort of the early day setup, and late night teardown, transformed into a weary but fulfilling malaise of satisfaction.

If Norman Rockwell were alive today, and had been in attendance, he would have painted an array of masterpieces depicting this event, as no better image of American exists than what we saw, lived and enjoyed on the 4th of July in Germantown, Wisconsin.

Submitted by John and Mary Rettler.     July 2017