Babies cooed and gurgled and dogs eagerly eyed the barbecue grills as adults and kids of all ages celebrated the 243rd Independence Day in the communities of Two Rivers and Pleasant Valley. Held near the community center in the ball fields, the festivities started with the Skordelis sisters, Audrey and Lexi, singing “The Star Spangled Banner.”

The next item on the agenda was the all-important ingredient: food. According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, Americans ate roughly 150 million hot dogs on the Fourth but this wasn’t the original meal in 1776. Due to the abundance of Atlantic salmon in the rivers, salmon was a common meal so having salmon for the Fourth became the tradition that continues to this day in New England. Food choices for this year’s event included pulled pork, hot dogs, hamburgers and dozens of salads and desserts and yes, smoked salmon.

With music throughout the day by Mike Stackhouse and his group, “The Rumblers” — Michael Kramer, Rif Rafson, Patrick Costello and Jerry Westcott, the fun began. Michael Kramer, aka “Rattles,” received the Two Rivers/Pleasant Valley Good Neighbor of the Year award for his tireless contribution to the beauty of the area.

Friends and families settled in to enjoy their meal and plan their participation in the competitions, which ranged from Highland games to a “husband modifier” contest. Babies were let loose on blankets while kids started migrating to the cotton candy machine provided by Wayne and Jean Shea and over to the Bouncy Haus to burn off some energy.

Jerry Phillips coordinated the Highland games, which began with the caber toss. The caber is a 16-foot-long timber that weighs 100 pounds. Rich Rodriguez won the 18 to 39 age group with a toss of 36 feet, 7 inches. Geoff Ciniero won his age group, 40 to 59, at 33 feet, 2 inches followed by Cliff Moberly at 25 feet, 4 inches in the over 60 age group.

Rich Rodriguez won his age group of 18 to 39 in hammer throw by tossing the 20-pound hammer 26 feet. In the age 40 to 59 group, Jerry Phillips threw a 12-pound hammer 36 feet, 9 inches to earn first place. David Locer won the over 60 year age group by throwing his 8-pound hammer 34 feet, 5 inches.

Several teams took up a crosscut saw to cut a spruce log. The team of Clint Kuhn and Kyle Fenton had the fastest time of 46.2 seconds in the 18 to 39 age group. Devlin McKee and Jerry Phillips won their age group of 40 to 59 with a cut time of 48.6 seconds. While awards were distributed, a group of ladies formed to plan a strategy to knock the hat off the tin-hat dummy “husband.” Using miniature rolling pins, 19 women had four chances to hit the tin-head of the dummy. Diane Armstrong won, hitting the poor creature four times in succession to claim top prize.

Bicycles and gift baskets filled the tables for the silent auction fund-raiser. Many thanks go to dozens of businesses that provided goods and services to support the annual event.

As everyone began to pack up, grab one more snack, thanks and appreciation was given to everyone for a nice, relaxing afternoon to celebrate the blessings of our country.

John Unruh lives in Two Rivers.