Today is the first Sunday of May, and that means National Lemonade Day. Lemonade Day opens us up not only to the conversation about the history of that refreshing summertime drink, but the insanity that has taken hold in the form of over-enforcing small business regulation. I grew up in a time when nearly every kid in America earned their first bit of money by setting up a Lemonade Stand. Legal or not, it didn’t matter.
It was once an American tradition for children to run a lemonade stand. If you were lucky, there were lemon trees growing somewhere nearby free for the picking or maybe a gardening childless aunt would bring a basket of lemons. After all, fresh squeezed lemonade is the absolute best. It’s a recipe that has remained virtually unchanged for a thousand years – juice, water and sugar. That’s about it. For those who didn’t have access to fresh lemons, the powdered stuff would do. Set up a table, make a sign and you were in business. As a child, I can remember the thrill of someone actually giving me a quarter for something I had made. As an adult, I believe in the importance of supporting a child-run stand.
Unfortunately, stands these days are few and far between. Maybe it’s the times we live in. Neighborhoods aren’t what they once were. Children aren’t what they once were either. Especially city dwellers.
Two summers ago, Hubby and I came upon two young girls on a country highway selling what had to be the worst lemonade on the planet. Theirs was fresh-squeezed from the trees growing in their yard. The girls then used far too little water and far too much sugar to make their lemonade. It was more like lemon syrup. No matter, we pulled off the highway and bought two glasses. The upside of living in the country is embracing a simpler life. The down side is that I don’t think their lemonade stand got much foot traffic.
Theirs was the last stand we’ve seen. In the interest of public health and safety, 36 states have laws banning businesses such as a lemonade stand without proper inspections and permits. Only 14 states allow children to set up shop without the customary permits. Even some of those have regulations such as age restrictions (such as children under the age of 16 are exempt from permit requirements) or the number of days the business is allowed to operate. The sad part about the regulations isn’t that they exist, but that they are being applied to a child-run lemonade stand. Once upon a time, people just looked the other way. Today, neighbors will call the police to complain.
Just ask comedian Jerry Seinfeld. On a hot summer day in August 2015, his son along with a couple of friends set up a lemonade stand on a stretch of grass along the roadside in East Hampton, New York. Granted, their stand was not far from a neighborhood of multi-million dollar homes, so some snobs may have seen it as an eyesore, but still, the stand was for a good cause. Proceeds were to be donated to a nonprofit started by the comedian’s wife to help end generational poverty. Good cause, but at the time New York did not allow lemonade stands, not for profit, not as a fundraiser, not for any reason without the appropriate permits. While Seinfeld’s brush with the law made big news, it took New York another four years to come up with laws exempting children (under sixteen) to run a temporarily without the customary permits.
Seems silly – there is a difference between this
But don’t let the cute little stands fool you. Some business and marketing savvy kids have been racking in the bucks with their stand. In Macomb, Michigan there is a 14-year-old that has been running her Happy Day Lemonade stand since she was four. These days, she’s been known to make over ten grand a season. Wow! What’s even more impressive is that many of these child-run roadside stands do good things. The girl in Michigan donated her profits to the Macomb Intermediate School District Homeless Education Project, which has been her beneficiary for the last seven years. Running a small business has so many benefits for children. We should all stand for the rights of lemonade stands.
If you are deprived of the joys of patronizing a neighborhood lemonade stand, then make your own. There is nothing as refreshing as home-made lemonade.
Fresh Squeezed Lemonade
8 medium or 6 large Lemons for juicing
1 cup Sugar
5 cups Cold Water
2 large Lemons for garnish
Mint Sprigs, if desired for color
Cut lemons in half, juice directly into a 1-cup measuring cup. Continue to juice lemons until the cup is full. Set aside.
Place sugar in the bottom of a pitcher. Pour fresh lemon juice over the sugar, stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add cold water, stir to blend.
Cut a few lemons in half or third rounds, depending upon size and desired look. Tuck lemons into the pitcher. Add a mint sprig to the pitcher for color just before serving, or place in glasses if desired.
Chill well, then serve and enjoy.