I was a big kid growing up, but there’s always someone bigger.

In my case, it was a cousin of mine. She was two years older than me, a lot bigger and, dare I say since we get along fine now, pretty mean. She could beat the tar out of me whenever she felt like it, and had no problem working up the urge.

I took it – what else could I do? – until one time she ripped my t-shirt that had photos of all the top 1964 American League baseball players on it. It was the only sports t-shirt I ever owned as a kid. Such things simply weren’t made back then.

Anyway, that was the last straw – she had crossed a line – and so I went after her with all I had and extracted my pound of flesh, which caused her to begin respecting me a lot more.

My parents were smart people. They knew exactly what was going on – that I didn’t like her and she didn’t like me – so they baited me anytime we were going to visit her family or they were coming to see us. If I minded my manners and kept my hands to myself, then I would be rewarded by getting something good. And if I didn’t, then I would be rewarded with something bad, like a swat – just one – on the fanny.

It was a great way to get me to, no matter what else was going on, put my best foot forward, even if I wanted to use it to karate kick my cousin. You always want to do your best in the presence of company.

The Portage Lakes area – and all the people, both those living and working in it – will be asked to be their best selves for the next week or so with the advent of the July 4th holiday week, and weekend. It is by far the biggest time of the year for the Lakes. The Fourth of July is the Christmas holiday season of summer – the high point of warm weather time.

And what better place to spend the holiday than to be on the water, especially when the annual Portage Lakes fireworks spectacular is lighting up the sky? Water is the one thing we have a lot of around here. It is one of our greatest assets, and selling points.

As such, then, there are, just like every year at this time, many people who will be visiting our area for the first time. And like they say, first impressions last. Whether or not they return in succeeding years will be determined by how much fun and enjoyment they have, which, in many ways, is dependent upon how they’re treated.

Were people courteous, kind, welcoming and helpful? In short, were we good hosts? Did we give it our very best shot?

In almost every case in past years, the answers to those questions have been a resounding “yes!” It is why the Fourth period, and all the festivities that go with it, continue to grow each and every year, with more and more people showing up on our doorstep.

So congratulations! Good job! You all deserve a pat on the back.

What you’ve done – and what I’m sure you will continue to do – is the right thing to do, and it’s also the smart thing. After all, these people will be spending money here, so they are helping to boost the local economy. They could spend those bucks anywhere, but they are choosing to do so here. That’s a big, big, big deal for everyone involved, so we want to make sure they keep coming back and also give their family, friends and neighbors a good review of their time here.

That positive word-of-mouth is the best advertising there is, so much so that no business owner could afford to buy it. It’s free, but it takes some doing to keep it.

So do your thing, everybody, and show our visitors what we already know, and that is in terms of the quality of people and also the quality of things to do, especially during summer, our area is unquestionably No. 1.