Revelers celebrated the United States' 243rd year with pride and hope for the country's future, though some local residents said the feeling was tinged with sadness over government actions toward immigrants and other issues. 

Thousands of people decked in red, white and blue gathered on Scott County's lakes and in parks this week to enjoy sunshine, colorful explosives and good company. Stormy forecasts gave way to two golden sunsets Wednesday and Thursday.

It was a time for appreciating Americans' shared identity and shared freedoms, several said — freedoms to speak, to vote, to grow up and live safely, and "to go watch fireworks and play spikeball in the middle of a field," as Scott Nelson joked while he and others played the lawn game outside Canterbury Park before its fireworks display Wednesday. 

Many also expressed appreciation to military servicemembers throughout American history for their sacrifices. 

"This is a day of togetherness," said Lyndsay Stewart, who boated on Prior Lake with several friends Thursday afternoon while the sun poked through a cloudy sky. "That's what the Fourth represents, being a country and not two parties." 

Nora Smith in Shakopee said she was most proud of becoming an American citizen a few years ago after immigrating from the Philippines and of supporting her siblings and other family members still there. Both took a lot of time, work and money and are among her biggest accomplishments. 

"I'm proud because I went through the process," she said outside Canterbury, where she went Wednesday with her son and family friends.

Still, she sees "everybody is throwing mud at everybody" these days around the country, Smith said. She and others said they're also sad for immigrants seeking opportunities like hers who have been detained at the southern border. 

Thousands of children and adult migrants have been held in overcrowded facilities there, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General and immigrant advocates. Several children have died in federal custody. 

Trump administration officials have said they're overwhelmed by a record number of people seeking asylum from Central America and have called for raids, fines and tighter border security to address the issue, according to The New York Times. Opponents have criticized the administration's approach as overbroad and unnecessarily dangerous. 

Other issues have dampened national pride as well, Gallup, a prominent nonpartisan polling organization, found in a report released this month. More than two-thirds of respondents were proud to be Americans, the group said, but less than half were "extremely proud," the lowest figure since Gallup began asking the question in 2001. 

The country's politics and health care system were the biggest drags on respondents' pride, the poll found. The military and America's scientific, economic and cultural achievements were the strongest sources of pride. 

Cecilia Robaina, who joined Stewart on Prior Lake on Thursday, said her family immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba, and she's glad to be able to raise her family here. She said she's also hopeful the country can still come together despite its divisions and stresses. 

"Things change," Robaina said. 

Community editor

Dan Holtmeyer is the community editor for the Prior Lake and Savage papers. He grew up in Nebraska and worked as a journalist in Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas before coming to Minnesota in 2018.

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