The Fourth of July is my favorite holiday.
Maybe it’s because it’s a summer holiday, and there’s just nothing like fireworks and parades in perfect 80-degree weather.
Maybe it’s because my patriotism has grown significantly over the past decade, as has my deep love and appreciation for the United States of America.
But it probably has more to do with family traditions.
Growing up, we always celebrated Independence Day with small, store-bought fireworks and summer foods like watermelon and homemade hamburgers. But it was never an all-day, morning-to-night event.
My father’s Canadian heritage might have something to do with that. While he loves America and has chosen to make a life here with his family, my dad has and will forever more hold a special place in his heart for the land of the Maple Leaf.
That changed when I met my husband Brad.
Eight Fourth of July holidays ago, I was singing on stage at the Stadium of Fire. I was fresh off "American Idol" and looking to advance my singing career. Brad was fresh off his LDS mission to Puerto Rico and looking to advance his social agenda. I happened to be sitting on the grass a few rows in front of the Herbert family. Through a series of coercions and friendly bribes, I was coaxed back to the stands to meet him — or rather, sign his program.
I gave his dad my number, hoping he’d call me to sing at some political convention, with the small hope Brad would steal it and call me.
Smart boy — he did. One week later we were headed out on our first date. A year and a half later, we were married.
We haven’t a missed a Stadium of Fire celebration since our first initial meeting back in 2004. But the day certainly doesn’t start there.
I love starting the day out with the Freedom Festival parade in Provo. We have pictures watching the floats go by as a couple; then with a baby bump; as a small family of three; and then family of four. I usually try to make us all color-coordinate for the pictures and even bought matching family shirts from Old Navy one year, which my husband politely refused to wear.
Watching the expressions on my boys’ faces as they see the service trucks go by and wave their little American flags always makes me emotional.
After the parade is an extended family barbecue. The afternoon is filled with outdoor games, taking naps on blankets outside and watching the kids squeal and splash on the blow-up water toys.
Then it’s on to the Stadium of Fire, the icing on the cake of the Freedom Festival. Of all the performers we’ve seen over the years, I have to say Carrie Underwood was one of my favorites.
This year, we’re looking forward to seeing the Beach Boys live for their 50th anniversary tour along with "American Idol" alum Scotty McCreery. After all, what’s more American than the Beach Boys? Their classic CDs are still a road-trip must for us.
However you celebrate our nation’s birthday, I hope the memories you make with your loved ones last a lifetime.
Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News.