How to enjoy the outdoors on the Fourth of July

How to enjoy the outdoors on the Fourth of July

By Ben Conrady

While our country celebrates its independence Wednesday, Carbondale residents can celebrate freedom with sports and outdoor activities, without straying too far from home.

A game of golf is a good place to start for a day of sports and relaxation. There are nine golf courses within 15 miles of Carbondale, which includes Hickory Ridge Golf Course and Jackson Course at the Jackson County Country Club. Both courses are open to the public and about a five minute drive from Carbondale.

Following time on the links, you could cool off at the LIFE Community Center Pool throughout the day, but Jane Childers, superintendent of recreation for the Carbondale Park District, said serious swimmers may want to avoid the early afternoon because of the youth swim from 1-4 p.m.


“It can get pretty loud and crazy,” Childers said.

If swimming isn’t your thing, head down the road to Giant City State Park. Located 12 miles south of Carbondale near Makanda, the park offers seven beautiful hiking trails, including the 12-mile Red Cedar trail for experienced hikers. Other activities at the park include rock climbing, horseback riding and fishing.

No matter what the morning consists of, you will undoubtedly need to take a break in the air conditioning. While lounging on the couch, don’t miss out on the chance to take in one of the greatest Fourth of July traditions: the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.

While approximately 40,000 fans make the annual pilgrimage to Jericho, N.Y., to see the contest live, according to Nathan’s Famous Inc., viewers can tune in to ESPN at 3 p.m. to see the action from home. The competitor to beat this year is Joey Chestnut, a 5-time defending champ who holds the world record for eating 68 hot dogs with buns in ten minutes.

After watching all those hot dogs being consumed, you will certainly want to have a few yourself. July is National Hot Dog Month, and according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, Americans will consume about 155 million dogs during Fourth of July activities. So fire up the grill and enjoy a few yourself.

A hotdog goes well with a game of baseball. If you want to participate in the game but haven’t laced up your cleats in years, why not enjoy a game of Wiffle ball?

Carbondale is home to Wiffley Field, the backyard stadium of the SO-ILL Swingers. Robby Clark-Stokes built the field in his parents’ backyard in 2002 and said he hosts games about twice a week.


Clark-Stokes said the field’s annual Independence Day tournament will be today, but interested Wiffle ball fans are welcome to check out the family’s field Wednesday too. There might even be a pick-up game or two, he said.

If you would rather watch the action than play, the Southern Illinois Miners will host the River City Rascals at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday at Rent One Park in Marion. Tickets range from $4.00-$13.00 for this semi-professional match-up.

Firework displays are an age-old tradition for the Fourth of July and a perfect way to end your holiday. While towns throughout the area hold individual displays, many have been cancelled or postponed due to the dry weather conditions. With a little luck, you may be able to see the action from a distant show, even if Carbondale does not hold any of its own.