"Oh say, can you see?"
The nation's flag has resurfaced continuously over the Fourth of July weekend. Its "broad stripes and bright stars" have recently become a big part of everyday life.
Independence Day has all the classic hypes that come with American tradition: grilled food, parades, carnivals and fireworks. These make up the quintessential Fourth of July weekend.
However, the atmosphere during Independence Day is considerably different. No longer are people focused on sparklers or carnival food. Instead, the waterfront is filled with families. Fathers are carrying their children on their shoulders, and couples are holding hands.
Regardless of the nearly 90 degree weather, Caige Jambor and Alex Lyren walked closely in quiet downtown Bemidji Monday, both planning on spending the entire day enjoying the holiday.
"This day is about taking time off to be with your family and loved ones," said Jambor.
Jambor said he felt fortunate to have time off to celebrate with his friends and family.
"This is a time for celebration," Lyren added. "The Fourth always reminds me to truly appreciate living in America."
Lyren isn't alone in valuing the significance of Independence Day.
St. Paul resident Jason Ross, who is visiting family for the Fourth of July weekend, believes in the importance of honoring those who have served their country.
"We have Veteran's Day, and we have Memorial Day, but there are never too many occasions to be grateful for the men and women who have fought for us," he said.
As Ross's 4-year-old niece, Lindsey, held onto his hand, he looked at her and said, "We need to let the next generation know how important this day is to us, and how important it will be to them."
The custom that usually ends the festivities of July 4 is fireworks. A collective hush resounds throughout the waterfront as bright showers of light glow in the sky.
This tradition is more than shooting off a series of pretty lights. It gives people time to reflect on and admire the moment that the United States of America became an independent country.
The importance of Independence Day goes beyond carnivals and blistering hot temperatures.
It can be seen through a salute to a World War II veteran, the inclusion of family and our star-spangled banner waving "o'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave."