For families in and around Milwaukee, July 3 is almost more important to them than the fourth. Of course, they're happy to celebrate the day of Independence for the United States, but the third is when they go all out.
"For us, it wouldn't be summer without coming down here," said Mike Ackerman of Mt. Pleasant. "My daughters were four and five when we came down and they love it."
Ackerman and many others are entering into their second decade of enjoying the fireworks at Veterans Park. While the hour-long fireworks are the big draw, it's the tradition of bringing dozens of family members together for a party in the shadow of the Milwaukee skyline.
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"My favorite part is what we're doing right now," said Margaret Holloway of Mequon, while flying kites with her daughter. "Spending some time. We have our family and if you come back in a couple hours, we'll be double the size."
It all starts on July 2 when families come and stake out their spot, using all sorts of tape, ropes or whatever they can find to corner off their spot of the park. Some are simple squares while others, like the Knueppel family spot, are massive spots they could charge rent for.
"My brother and his brother-in-law started about 20 years ago," said Klint Knueppel. "Every year, we've been adding more here and there to the point we'll have 80 people for supper tonight. It's great."
The Knueppel's have all your usuals; lawn chairs, grills, table settings. However, they go even bigger with a grass basketball court including painted lines.
"We decided about 15 years ago, we were going to get it better and better and better," Knueppel said. "Last year, we had a popcorn machine. This year, a cotton candy machine. The kids will be happy about that."
The kids are happy about it and are every single year.
"I love family," Mack Knueppel said. "I'm a big family guy and always have been. Having them all around me and celebrating the third of July all day. I can't ask for anything better."
"As soon as the third of July is done, they're counting down the days to the next third of July," Klint Knueppel said. "They just love it."
The third of July only comes but once a year and so do many birthdays. Several people around Veterans Park are killing two birds with one stone by celebrating Independence Day as well as their birthdays.
"I always look at it as a birthday present for me," said David Dahlke, who turned 40. "July 2 is my birthday."
"It's extremely special for me because it's my son's birthday as well," said Tom Potter. "My son will be 10-years-old this year. Just to share this memory with him and share it with all of our family, it's amazing."
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