AUBURN — There was a lot of noise in Auburn Public Library on Thursday as children sang, marched and ate cake during an early “Happy Birthday, America” party.

The annual celebration is put on by the Wallace family of Auburn, headed by matriarch and retired teacher Pat Masonheimer.

As children sat around her for a “Yankee Doodle” story, she gave a quick history lesson.

“Today is the second of July,” she said. “The birthday of our country is on the Fourth of July.”

This year marks the 239th birthday of the nation, she said, which they would soon celebrate by eating a red-white-and-blue cake.

“Wait till you see this cake — it’s big!” she said.

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The children, many wearing patriotic outfits, were all smiles.

“Check out my new sandals,” a girl said to Masonheimer while showing off her feet.

The group sang “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” then listened to Masonheimer read a “Yankee Doodle” story that elaborated on the song, including a dancing poodle and the opening of a Yankee noodle shop.

Afterward, she passed out flags, bells and other musical instruments.

“We are going to be in a fabulous parade and get to make noise in the library!” she said.

After the flags were passed out and the parade leaders assigned, the group followed Masonheimer like she was the Pied Piper as they marched around the first floor of the library waving flags and singing “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

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The parade ended in a large room where volunteers waited for the children. On desks were Fourth of July craft materials. The younger children were to make patriotic paper lanterns; older children were to create a large banner to hang near the circulation desk that reads: “Let Freedom Ring!”

The Fourth of July children’s party has become a tradition.

“We’ve been doing this for eight or nine years now,” said Sophie Wallace, 20, Masonheimer’s granddaughter. “We wanted to do something extra special in July and December. It sort of blossomed from there.”

Childrens’ librarian Deb Cleveland said the party allows youngsters to learn why the Fourth of July is celebrated.

“It’s important,” she said. “They learn in America, we have a democracy.”

And having fun at the library “is what we want,” Cleveland said, adding that libraries are becoming community centers. The Auburn library is lucky to have the Wallace family volunteer for the event, Cleveland said.

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As children built their lanterns, some answered questions about the holiday.

“It’s a fun day,” said Josh Allard, 6½, of Lewiston.

Julie Mooney, 10, of Sabattus, said the holiday is to honor “when someone founded America.”

Ben Johnson, 4, gave a one-word answer when asked what’s the best part about the fireworks.

“Boom!” he said.

When it was time to cut the cake, three candles in the shape of the numbers 2, 3 and 9, were lit. The group sang “Happy birthday, Dear America.” Then they waited for the signal.

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“When I say ‘three,’ everybody blow,” Masonheimer said. “This is going to be a mighty wind. One, two, three!”

The group blew out the candles, applauded and cheered. Slices of cake were passed out.

Masonheimer, 77, used to be an early childhood teacher and now teaches early childhood education at Central Maine Community College. She, her daughter, Garbielle Wallace, her son-in-law and grandchildren throw the party “because we owe it to the community,” Masonheimer said. “We all have to give to our community. This is our gift to the children.”

Her goal is for children to have fun at the library so they’ll want to come back and be a part of it.

And, she hopes children leave with “some understanding at some level of the Fourth of July, that we celebrate our country.”

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Q: Can you tell me about the Fourth of July? A: “It’s fun. We get to go to the library. We can do a lot of fun things.” Q: Why celebrate? A: “It’s a fun day. It’s all about celebrating fun things.”

Q: What happens on the Fourth of July? A: “We go places. We go to church.” His dad, Brian, Johnson corrected him: “Not on the Fourth of July. What does Daddy do?” Ben answered: “Work.” Dad: “No, I don’t work on the Fourth of July. We light up fireworks. We have a barbecue.” Q: What’s the best part of the fireworks? Ben said: “Boom!”

Q: What do we do on the Fourth of July? “Eat cake. Swimming! Fireworks.” Q: Why? “It’s America’s birthday!”

Q: What’s the best part about the Fourth of July? A: “The fireworks. They’re really loud.” Q: Why do we celebrate? A: “Because we like it.”

Q: What is the holiday about? A: “The Fourth of July is a holiday when you celebrate the presidents, you celebrate America, when someone founded America. It’s mostly about ‘God Bless America’ and it’s a free country.” Q: What’s your favorite part of the holiday? A: “The fireworks.”

Q: What do you do on the Fourth of July? A: “We watch fireworks. I like go to watch the fireworks.”  Q: What is the holiday about? A: “The Fourth of July is for the birthday of the country.”


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