by Carolyn Trower

I left for the 4th of July festivities around 7:30 a.m. The early morning hours were cool enough that the birds were still singing. Nearby a lawn mower churned away and a kamikaze squirrel ran into the road, turned in circles and ended up going back the way he came. I know the feeling.

Several people silently glided past the park in the golf carts, checking to see when the activities would begin. I found a shady place to park, gathered my camera bag and bottle of water, and headed to the Band Stand for the Baby Show. A couple of women walked ahead of me and I surmised they were the judges. Brave souls, I hope they had a quick get-away planned. Several joggers circled the park, young athletic bodies plugged in with ear buds and steadily keeping pace.

The park was neatly mowed. Picnic table had been strategically placed near the pavilion in anticipation of a large crowd for lunch. About fifteen minutes before the Baby Show, the star attractions began to arrive, bedecked and beribboned in all combinations of red, white, and blue. Bare toes and sandals, sunglasses and hats, curls and bows; I would not have been a judge for love nor money.

After the winners had been photographed, I walked down by the cannon to see how the parade was coming along. Kids were gathering around the floats and jockeyed for a prime seat. The sun was higher and it was considerably hotter as I headed uptown. I positioned myself along Main Street and watched as people began sitting up lawn chairs and kids looked eagerly toward the park, sacks at the ready to haul away the approximately two tons of candy that was thrown out of the parade vehicles.

Is there anything that that says 4th of July better than a small-town parade? I know the bigger towns have more floats and sometimes celebrity guests, but a small town puts on a parade that exudes home. There were ball teams, 4-H groups, lots of church floats, antique cars, and tractors. The local VFW Post led the way with flags flying and the vets and their grandkids tossing candy from the back of a 5-ton troop transport. Miss Perry 4th of July, Junior Miss 4th, and Little Mr. and Miss Firecracker waved from the bed of a trailer and a young man proudly drove his grandpa’s vintage Cadillac. It’s all about the kids. These memories will shape their understanding of the 4th of July and what it means to grow up in a small town where everyone knows you (or your family).

Somewhere a church bell rang out. The parade ended and people made their way back to the park. A line quickly formed to ride the Carousel and it was good to see the donation jar fill up. It will be good to have the Carousel as a permanent part of the 4th of July festivities again. There was food, games, runaway frogs, kettle korn, and music. Lots of old acquaintances finding one another and hashing over “the good old days.” All in all, it was a day that embodied all the things a sleepy little town has to offer on a summer holiday.