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Happy Birthday, America!

Marie Nitke/FOCUS Perham resident Dale Wright has an early copy of the Declaration of Independence in his possession. He’s having the document professionally examined and appraised later this month, and plans to sell it. 1 / 2
Marie Nitke/FOCUS A close-up of some of the signatures on the early copy of the Declaration of Independence owned by Dale Wright, including the famous signature of John Hancock. 2 / 2

It’s the Fourth of July!

For many of us, that means a day or two off work, cookouts with family, a weekend at the lake, and, of course, fireworks.

But in the midst of these fun-filled celebrations, how many of us stop to think about what this pinnacle summer holiday is really all about?

It’s about freedom, yes, and liberty; I think it’s safe to say we’re all aware of that. But more specifically, it’s about the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, a document that secured the early American colonies’ independence from Great Britain and announced the formation of a new nation – the United States of America.

The text of the Declaration was ratified on July 4, 1776, a day that came to be known as the United States’ national birthday, Independence Day.

That’s something everyone learns about in school, but it often gets overlooked as we get into our own holiday celebrations.

A little history: Drafted by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence was edited by the Continental Congress – a convention of 56 delegates from the colonies that included Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, John Adams and other famous and influential figures in U.S. history.

The Declaration not only made a timely statement dissolving all political ties with the British Empire, it also laid out a timeless political philosophy that has, over the centuries, helped shape and define our nation.

Core to this philosophy is the well-known belief that “…all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The significance and relevance of the Declaration of Independence has not been lost over time. Instead, its importance has been renewed again and again over the generations, with the document a central reference piece during every new issue or debate that has arisen regarding equality, human rights and the right to revolution.

The Declaration of Independence is now on permanent display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., where it is preserved with the utmost care.

In addition to the original document, a small number of early copies commissioned by Congress are known to have survived through the years.

Due to the original declaration’s faded condition, most modern reproductions come from an engraving made in 1823 by printer William J. Stone.

One early copy currently exists here in Perham.

The document – so old and frail that it falls apart if touched too firmly – has been in Dale Wright’s family “for as long as I can remember,” he said during an interview last week.

The story behind it is a bit of a mystery. It’s not known exactly how old this particular copy of the Declaration of Independence is, who printed it, or for how long it’s been in the family.

What Wright does know is that it’s been passed down through his mother’s side for at least a few generations. It was left to him after his father’s passing.

Since then, he’s kept the document stored in a secure, dark and cool place to keep it safe and well-preserved. He brought it out in the public eye just once before, lending it to the In Their Own Words Veterans Museum for a temporary display.

But now, he said, he’s ready to pass it along to a museum or private collector.

His father left it to him “because he knew that I enjoyed artifacts,” Wright said. “But I’m old enough now that I have no use for it any longer.”

He’s having the document professionally examined and appraised later this month, and plans to sell it.

Baseball and fireworks: 4th of July traditions


Perham’s annual tradition of Independence Day baseball and fireworks will be held this year on Thursday, July 4, featuring the Perham Pirates versus the Dent Wildcats at 7:30 p.m. at Al Krueger Field.

Single game tickets are $3 for adults, $1 for students.

An expanded concession stand will be available offering brats, burgers and hot dogs from the grill.

After the game, at approximately 10 p.m., fireworks will be on display.

There will be promotional giveaways throughout the game, along with Minnesota Twins trivia every inning. Every paid ticket of entry is eligible for free hot dog drawings that will take place during the course of the game.

Free temporary tattoos will be available for the kids, along with free freeze pops and other giveaways.

This year marks the one-year anniversary of the grand opening of Tuffy’s Stadium, a renovation that was celebrated for the first time upon completion at last year’s holiday game.

Perham defeated Dent 8-2 last year, led by seven strong innings pitched by Taylor Doll and a 2-5 day at the plate from Jesse Hein, who scored four times. Former Perham High School baseball standout David Stoll led Dent going 2-4 at the plate.

-New York Mills

New York Mills will host an amateur baseball game, followed by a fireworks display, to celebrate the 4th of July.

The New York Mills Millers will take on the visiting Bluffton Braves at 7 p.m. at Smith Park in NY Mills.

The game will also feature a raffle drawing, the top prize for which will be $750 in cash.

The game will be followed by a fireworks display, also at Smith Park.

Tickets will cost $10 for the raffle and the game, or $4 for admittance to the game only.

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Perham Focus more than five years ago, and has since worn many hats as writer, editor and page designer. She lives in rural Frazee with her husband, Dan, their one-year-old son, Simon, and their yellow lab, Louisa. 

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