It's summer's signature holiday: the Fourth of July.
Sports and recreation always seem to play a significant part in this national holiday, from fireworks over packed baseball stadiums, to race tracks wrapped in red, white and blue, to camping, boating and biking in the beautiful Pennsylvania outdoors.
While our region boasts many beautiful fireworks displays, a relatively new tradition has blossomed at Shawnee State Park, where a small "chapter of the Pennsylvania Parks and Forest Foundation hosted its second annual Fireworks on the Lake event Saturday evening.
Thousands of guests gathered, both on the water and in many patches of grass throughout the park to view the unique display. And the beauty began well before the pyrotechnics.
As the sunset painted the sky with streaks of gold and pink, a 100 or more boats, canoes and kayaks floated on Shawnee Lake, creating speckles of safety lights glowing across the water; while on land, fireflies made their appearance shortly before the main event.
As the shells were launched from the breast of the dam, a unique three-part show was underway. The crowd could see the spark of the shells and their spiraling smoke tails ascending into the air, followed the beautiful explosions of light overhead, and the bonus beauty of the fireworks' reflection on the water. The light show illuminated the area over the lake in short bursts, making the boats briefly visible, before the sparks faded into the night sky, once again cloaking the floating vessels below.
The state park itself could not have been more accommodating, allowing the after-hours onslaught of families, and even mowing extra places for the grateful visitors to park.
The local fireworks, along with other events planned by Pennsylvania Parks and Forest Foundation Friends Groups throughout the state are designed to showcase these sometimes-taken-for-granted treasures of our commonwealth.
Every paddleboat, canoe and kayak was reserved for the Shawnee fireworks long before the holiday weekend; every pavilion was booked, and many park-goers came hours before sunset to swim in the lake, walk the trails or enjoy a picnic with friends and family.
Hopefully the event serves as a reminder of the outdoor resources available to the public at Pennsylvania's parks year round. How lucky are we to live in a state that not only values and preserves our park land, but that still does not charge an admission fee?
Already, back to school supplies are filling the shelves at local department stores, baseball and softball leagues are moving into playoffs and all-star tournaments, and football teams are thinking about summer workouts and preseason training camps.
Fall will be here before we know it, but in the meantime, there's lots of summer left to enjoy, why not enjoy it in our state parks?
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.