Button designer shares memories of July Fourth and family

Staff writer

Sarah Robinson Hebert is a descendant of several early day Peabody families. She is a lifelong Wichita resident whose close relationship with her grandparents brought her to Peabody for many holidays.

The annual July Fourth celebration was a great family event for Hebert and her extended family — her parents, both sets of grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, and all of her great-grandparents.

“I feel so fortunate that we were able to share in Peabody’s small town tradition of a big celebration for our country’s best holiday,” she said. “My brother Adam and I were frequent visitors to Peabody growing up, so we knew what it was like on a regular weekend. The community came alive for the Fourth and it was always fun to see and be a part of that energy.

“Plus it was like a huge family reunion for us. Because of Peabody’s big celebration, many of our far-away family members were drawn to come back and visit.”

She said her grandfather “Papa Ross” Baker enjoyed the noise and activity of her uncles and several cousins setting off firecrackers, Black Cats, and Roman candles in the middle of the day.

“My grandparents enjoyed happy hour on their screened in front porch on Walnut Street. They and other family members would sit on the porch sipping their toddies and cheering on the fun,” she said. “There are numerous stories involving my uncles and male cousins and fireworks.

“One time, my cousin Bart Baker walked downtown carrying a bunch of fireworks. A police officer spotted him and followed him back to my grandparents’ home when they lived on Sycamore Street,” she said. “The family was all gathered in the back yard for a picnic and Bart ran through the group and dumped the fireworks into great-grandmother Vivien Baker’s lap. When the police found her with the fireworks in her possession, she scolded them for being intruders on a family event!”

For Hebert, the parade, the fireworks show, and being with family were the real draws of the weekend.

She remembers gathering candy with her brother and cousins as the parade passed in front of the Baker home at 701 Walnut Street. She and her grandmother, Rosalie Baker, once walked the parade route dressed in turn of the century vintage clothing.

After the parade, the family always gathered for a picnic or potluck supper with either Baker or Berns relatives.

“We would walk to the park afterward and save places for everyone. The fireworks show is something we always looked forward to,” she said. “The Battle of New Orleans is always fantastic! Going to fireworks shows in Wichita is boring in comparison. There is just something about being able to be so close to the fireworks and the set pieces. Once you’ve been close, anything less seems far less impressive.”

The Baker family lost its patriarch when Ross died in January. The family will gather again this Independence Day to enjoy a holiday and reunion just as they have for decades.

In the spring, Hebert found the Peabody July 4th page on Facebook and read about the contest to design the button that would admit thousands through the gates of Peabody City Park for the 93rd annual fireworks show.

“When we were young, we would arrive at Papa Ross’s house early in the day on the Fourth of July,” she said. “Papa Ross would have a stash of buttons purchased for all of us, so he would distribute them and we’d pin them on, well before we needed them for park entry.”

“I can remember wanting to submit a design in the past, but didn’t know how to do it. This year I found the information on Facebook and felt called to submit for Papa’s sake.”

Hebert drew upon her memories of Baker for the inspiration for her winning design.

Hebert said that she thought of how the community decorated for the holiday and specifically how Papa Ross would hang festive half-circles of bunting from the front porch of his home.

“I wanted the button to have that red, white and blue circular bunting look with stars and vintage-looking fonts,” she said. “One of my grandfather’s signature compliments was that something was ‘good looking.’ I can just hear him saying that.”

“I just wish he were around to see it and enjoy another holiday with us.”

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