This July, capture the summer living and the spirit of July Fourth by vacationing at home or near to home.

The calendar or old Farmers' Almanac may say summer starts on June 20, but for me, summer doesn't truly start until the Fourth of July. That’s when I start to move a little more slowly, spend more time outdoors, and feel free to kick back a little and have some fun. It's the time to get out and ride your bike or try to catch up on some reading.

On July Fourth, we, like so many of our neighbors around the country, celebrate America’s birthday by watching the local parades, though many have been canceled this year due to the coronavirus, along with county and state fairs, as well as local city events.

This is the time of the year to go to farmers markets, just this year, we need to wear masks. But that shouldn't stop us from buying a big, sun-warm juicy tomato to slice on a lettuce and bacon sandwich with extra napkins, a piece of chocolate cake, and later, do your own fireworks with a dish or cone of ice cream.

This year, you might want to check out the regulations at your local beach, though in some areas, folks are renting a small cottage, going with their camper or pitching a tent in their own backyard. You can always grill and roast hot dogs and marshmallows on a stick.

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But first, don't forget you can still find local roadside stands with items from the garden. Visit a local flea market. One will be held June 27-28 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. by The Old River Valley Antique Mall in Stewartville, and I'm sure others will pop up in the next weeks in July and August. It's always fun to visit antique, thrift and consignment shops to look for treasures to decorate your porch or other areas of your home in patriotic red, white and blue.

These are just a few of the simple pleasures I look forward to enjoying in the upcoming summer months.

Patriotic decor

Paul Larsen, of Mantorville Square: “We have several different items for the Fourth of July. Linens that range from $4 to $10 in a cute white wicker fern stand, and a hand-made yo-yo flag pillow that is selling for $27. Also, a repro Uncle Sam door stop at $19.95, a wooden flag priced at $10, and a Knowles China “Fourth of July” plate at $18. We are now open for sales.”

Joan Thilges, of Harmony: “One of our vendors at New Generations of Harmony has a very fun patriotic display. The cute sign sells for $5.50; the star place mat is only $3.50. I love the red toolbox, priced at only $12.50, while the granite-ware colander is priced at $9.50.”

Shayna Dais, of The Rusty Bucket, an occasional store in Winona: “We have an entire front window dedicated to July Fourth! Our last sale before the Fourth will be June 27 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with some vintage mixed in with gently used or repurposed that makes a nice red, white and blue vignette! Add a patriotic dish towel or kitchen towel with a picture or wooden wall accessory and voila, you’re ready to celebrate the Fourth of July!”

Brenda Jannsen, owner of Treasures Under Sugar Loaf: “We have red and blue benches perfect for the porch, along with a variety of sprinkling cans for the collector in various colors that are cute on the porch or in the yard and useful for watering plants. For summer picnics, we have glassware in red and blue at $3 each, and stars made of tin, fabric and wood. We have even found a few patriotic gnomes. Made by Angie Pehler, of Angie's Vintage Rust, you can find for the yard large wooden flags that sell for $60. Enamelware for the camper, with prices ranging under $10 on up, and colored lanterns. There are several new to vintage items that can be found, and not just for the summer, but all year round.”

Sandy Erdman is a Winona-based freelance writer and certified appraiser concentrating on vintage, antique and collectible items. Send comments and story suggestions to Sandy at