Come One, Come All

Come One, Come All

With the Club throwing its annual celebration for Independence Day this month, non-American Members discuss the appeal of joining the party.

In 1776, when Founding Father John Adams called for a “great anniversary festival” to mark America’s independence from Great Britain, he wrote to his wife, Abigail, that the celebration “ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

The Club’s all-day extravaganza of fun on July 1 to mark the nation’s 247th birthday would certainly receive a stamp of approval from America’s second president. The festivities, which kick off with a morning fun run, include entertainment, live music, games and food trucks in front of the Club, bowling and basketball tournaments, a spread of classic American eats and a music and light show with projection mapping fireworks.

When the Declaration of Independence was proclaimed on July 4, 1776, the first official celebrations, comprising fireworks and 13 cannon volleys (one for each state of the union), took place in Philadelphia. Independence Day became a national holiday in 1870 and has been a rite of summer ever since.

For many Club Members (around 76 percent hail from countries other than the United States), the day is a chance to learn about and take part in the rich legacy of America’s founding.

Jerry Chan, an entrepreneur from Toronto, compares the Club’s Independence Day bash to the Canadian National Exhibition, the largest fair in Canada and a major draw for families from across southern Ontario. Chan has attended the Club’s celebration with his South Korean wife, So Jeong Chan-Lee, and their three children, Sophie, Sirius and Sascha.

“Independence Day has always been a fun, American culture event for us and the kids,” says Chan, who joined the Club in 2012. “I remember fondly the pie-eating contest, which was truly the only contest that I was glad to have lost. I think I recall another time when we were delighted to find Nathan’s hot dogs, which was a total nostalgic and gastronomical treat. The kids loved it.”

For Hideki Endo, the day has been about community relations. A Member for 24 years, he would entertain officials from the Tokyo Fire Department—which helps to stage the Club’s annual Disaster Awareness Day event—during his time as chair of the Community Relations Committee.

Since the Tokyo native spent two years living in California and another two in Alaska when he worked in the aviation industry, Independence Day at the Club represents a chance to remember that time.

“When I joined the Club, Japanese nationals only made up 30 percent of the membership,” Endo says. “When I joined, I had already had the experience of living in the US for four years, so the flag ceremony with the color guard reminded me of the US, with nice memories. It also gave me a feeling of strength and of being united.”

Like Endo, Australian Therese Cowled spent a number of years in the US. When she was younger, she lived in San Francisco and Chicago and later married her French partner in New York. Since joining the Club in 2011, she has attended Independence Day a number of times and has many happy memories of those celebrations.

“The mechanical bull was definitely unique, but I also remember the year we had the enormous bouncy castles and inflatable slides in the gym,” she says. “I volunteered that year to help out, but I remember also having the important job of ‘testing’ the equipment before the festivities got started. My kids definitely enjoyed helping out, too.”

Cowled says July Fourth represents a chance to immerse yourself in another culture.

“Expat life is all about the exposure to new experiences. You start to adopt different ways of doing things or celebrating certain festivities. In Japan, that can be KFC for Christmas dinner or giving chocolates to all your colleagues for Valentine’s Day,” she says. “At the Club, it’s all about doing something different—whether it’s a mechanical bull ride or watching the pie-eating contest.”

Independence Day Celebration
July 1 | 9am–11pm

Words: Tim Hornyak
Images of (top) 2017 Independence Day Celebration; (center) Sascha Chan-Lee (left) at 2018's Independence Day pie-eating contest; (right) Therese Cowled (center) at 2018's Independence Day: Yuuki Ide

July 2023