If you are ever in Healdsburg on Independence Day, seek out some fun at the annual 4th of July Christmas Bash. Hosted by implanted local, Mark Friedrich, this is one of the best yearly gatherings.
The festivities begin in the afternoon at Mark’s, a mile away from downtown. Everyone rocks up with a dish of some sort – salads, appetizers, desserts, anything to complement the jambalaya and Cajun beans-and-rice that Mark spends all day preparing (he’s originally from Louisiana) – and a Christmas ornament to decorate the skeleton of last year’s tree, preserved for the occasion.
Locals of all ages arrive and any friendly visitors discovered in the Bear are invited. My 85-year-old English grandfather ensures his summer visit to my parents coincides with Mark’s party, so he can sit in an armchair in the middle of the merriment.
People spread out blankets, then stuff themselves and enjoy the free-flowing local ale and wine. Games of very amateur volleyball get underway in the dusty orchard.
At dusk, fireworks start blasting off from the neighbouring high school and Mark plays Patsy Cline on the outdoor stereo, ensuring that Healdsburg will forever associate her country caterwauling with warm evenings, fireworks and dead Christmas trees.