Saturday, July 05, 2008


Like a bazillion other people in small towns across America (and probably some not-so-small towns as well) we attended our local 4th of July parade yesterday morning. While I doubt our parade is any better or any worse than anyone else's, it is near and dear to my heart, simply for the longevity of how many times I've attended with my family.

I have no idea what year they started doing our 4th of July parade, but I marched in it myself when I was in high school with our local marching band .... about twenty-five years ago. Even prior to THAT, my parents hooked a trailer up to my dad's pickup truck on 1976 (Centennial Year!) and we RODE in the parade .... wish I could find some pictures of that! The parade route is a couple of miles, from downtown to a local park, where a carnival/fair/arts and crafts show/greasy food/music performances/fireworks display all take place throughout the day and into the night. I even played in the community band for a few years in my (MUCH) younger days, when I was still athletic enough to actually hold an instrument without dropping it. Yesterday, I watched the parade and thought I would probably die if I tried to walk that distance in the heat at this stage of my life. So I sat in a chair and enthusiastically waved my American flag --- pretty much the limit of my physical endurance. (Um, didn't I just join a gym recently?? And is it obvious that I haven't gone since my kids got out of school!?!?)

Used to, Blaine and I would purposely plan our vacations home to coincide with the fourth so we could go to the celebration in the park. It was a great opportunity for us to see old friends while we were in town, and it truly had the feel of a small-town festival. I'm just enough of a Norman-Rockwell-geek to love it.

Then someone, somewhere, got the idea that it would be swell to really beef up the festival. Bring in more rides for the kids, and instead of the community band, hire actual professionals to perform. And instead of our local firefighters shooting off fireworks once it got dark, they hired a pyrotechnic company for a bigger, more exciting show. They renamed it The Freedom Festival, and added things like car shows, and 5k races, and a donkey softball game. And you know, it was all good and well, but it lost the small-town reunion feeling that we loved so much. It's billed as one of the largest fireworks shows in the state, and there are literally thousands, tens of thousands of people that attend.

Quite frankly, while I think it's great for our town, it makes me sad. So now, we just go to the parade, and spend the day with family and friends.

I guess it's official: I've turned into one of those people who talk about "the good ole' days."

Here's a little trip down memory lane:

1986. I had been dating this guy, "Blaine", for almost a year. He was ok; things were going pretty well; even if he did have plans to join the military and if he even so much as thought for an instant that I would leave my family and my home town to join him, well, he had another thing coming. In the meantime, there are a few things about this picture that confuse me. First of all, I'm holding a beer bottle. I don't even LIKE beer, I never have. I'd as soon drink lighter fluid ... yet there I am, offending bottle in hand. And why is my belt on the outside of my sweater? And dear heavens, is that a she-mullet I'm sporting????

1993. Enjoying the parade with my family on what is the equivalent of our "Main Street", downtown. Wow, my sister and I are still hanging on to that 80's big hair, aren't we? Blaine, I'm pretty sure, was taking the picture.

1996. Same family, plus one nephew at this point. I think we're in the same truck, in the same spot downtown. I told you, we're creatures of habit.

1996. I really love this picture, not because it's so fabulous, but because that is the church we were married at in the background. I'm telling you, my small-town-ness is almost scary at some points. I also love this picture because (here's where the small-town-ness isn't scary, but wonderful, and proof of God's hand in our lives) when we submitted our "profile" to the adoption agency, we included this very picture. Brayden's birthmom, who is from the same small town, told me one of the reasons she picked us was because she knows exactly where this church is ... in fact, attended the same school I did which is just across the street. All I have to do is look at my daughter to know my small-town life was perfect.

1997. So, the next year, we introduced our daughter to the beauty that was the 4th of July festival. Truly, eating KFC over your baby daughter's head is a sign of true class, don't you think? Brayden doesn't look too impressed.

1997. She doesn't look any more impressed to be snuggling with Grandma Betty for the fireworks that night.

2000. Wow, she might be even less impressed than ever. This was the festival at the park, waiting for the concert to start. This was also the year we fought crowds the entire day, waited in lines to get our kids on rides, battled a ridiculous amount of traffic trying to leave the park that night after the fireworks, and never went back.

2002. But, we continued to do the parade every year, and the kids loved it.

We haven't actually been to the parade in a few years and I've missed it. Blaine and Kendrie got sick and we didn't travel as much, and one year we missed it because we timed our vacation wrong .... last year we were watching another small-town parade, in Skagway, Alaska ... you get the picture. But this year, our first year home, we were BACK! And I hope this will be the first of many more to come, and that my children will grow up with the same fond memories of this parade as I have.

Or not. They don't look too impressed here, do they? I'm telling you, those global warming people might just be on to something. I thought I was going to melt yesterday. But check out the captions on the photo, and you'll see just how small-town some of us are.

And just to give you an idea of how much I love this parade, I give you the following evidence:

We have the fire department,

local sheriff,

monster trucks,

and horses. (Hey, this IS Oklahoma, after all.)

Of course, we have the typical:

Old-timey cars,

and old-timey fire trucks.

Oh, sure, we have all the usual --- floats, clowns, marching bands, etc. I think my kids favorite part was seeing so many classmates in the parade, marching with boy scout troops, church groups, local gymnastic and dance teams, little league teams, etc. Personally these are some of my favorite:

People driving plows,

and even riding lawn-mowers.

THIS guy, is our neighbor ... wonder if he could bring that get up to the next block party for a sumo wrestling match or something???

A guy who ran out of gas half-way through the parade,

And in case THAT doesn't convince you how uptown we are ... check this out:

On second thought, maybe I DON'T want my kids to have fond memories of every little part.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your day with us. Some of my fondest memories of childhood are of 4th of July in the small town I grew up in. They did it up big and we looked forward to it each year. Unfortunately cuts in town budgets have taken their toll on these celebrations and volunteers are getting harder to get. My children have been moved around the country so they have no sense of that anticipation that we had each year of the same parade, the carnival and firewords.

Unknown said...

Wow, what a nice wall down memory lane for you and your family. It's a shame that so many people consider big being better! Where have all those years gone?

We celebrated on post at Fort Hood. They had it all...carnival rides, games, food, bands, horses, and events all day, very patriotic with the 1st Calvary horses showing off (actually the soldiers who ride them were showing off). The Air Force did a fly over, and the day was topped off with fireworks. Oh, and the event was named FreedomFest.

And, I have to ask...but you don't have to answer, I didn't know M lived in the same town, do you guys see each other?

Anonymous said...

I have those same fond memories of my small town. I am glad your kids will have these memories.

Anonymous said...

Ahhhhh, the good ol' days..... thanks for giving us a peek at the memories you hold so dear. Please tell Blaine that I send him and the other guys and gals who enable us to celebrate our independence a great big "Thank You" this weekend!

Amy @ Six Flower Mom said...

I too have gone to our hometown parade and festivities for as long as I can remember and still bring my children there! Now because things have grown up so much we park the truck the night before so we can have a place to sit!

Donna said...

What, no Shriner cars????? How can it be a small-town parade without them itty-bitty cars? :0) I suppose it must have been fun anyway!

I grew up in a mid-sized city but now we live in a rather parade-happy small Kansas town. Amazingly, we do NOT have an Independence Day parade. We have a Homecoming Parade (September or October), a Christmas Parade (duh), and the grand-daddy of them all, the Tall Corn Festival Parade (second Saturday in August). And I doubt there is any chance of it becoming a big deal to anyone but us. We don't even have much of a fireworks show, but the next little town over does, and that's where we planted ourselves last night. We got to see skydivers, eat homemade ice cream, and listen to our children ask repeatedly WHEN ARE THE FIREWORKS GOING TO START???? We had a front row seat and the concussion from some of the mortars (which there were so many of they must have been on sale) ruffled our hair. My six-year-old proclaimed it the best night of his life as we were leaving (amazing since only one day earlier it had been the WORST day of his life...).

Musings from Me said...

I am English by birth, American by naturalization. I have been in the U.S. for July 4th since 1986. Every year is different.

The most interesting...fireworks on the Mall in Washington, D.C. The metro ride back home was the crowded...we were literally packed like sardines!

We have fond memories of watching the fireworks on the beach at Ocean City, MD.

Last night I stayed home while my husband took our children to his parent's house. I napped and then woke up long enough to see some fireworks on our street.

Mama Bear said...

We have the same kind of town. My favorite part of the parade is our local volunteer fire department's band, complete with the trumpet player who drives his electric cart because he can no longer walk.

Later this month is the highlight of our summer - the annual duck race. $5 gets you the number of one of the ducks. Thousands of pre-numbered rubber duckies are hoisted off our Main Street bridge where they "race" down the Erie Canal to the finish line only 100 yards away. Race is certainly not what happens on a canal, even with help from the local lock letting loose thousands of gallons of water. We all wait, holding our breaths, listening to the local bands play a few numbers. The ticket holder of the winning duck gets $500 and the remaining money goes to the local youth charity. This truly is small town America at it's finest.

Anonymous said...

ok, this is totally off topic and I haven't even read the post today yet, but I wanted to share this story because it was just so sweet and also made me think of you! :)

Anonymous said...

OK, now I had a chance to read it. First, was surprised to learn M is from the same town and went to the same school! How neat! :) We have been in our small town for almost 2 years now. Parades are big here and we try to see most of them. The festival in the park (local bands and carnival food followed by fireworks) has been missed both years due to the weather (the show went on but we didn't go since it stormed both last year and yesterday!). But we do love our town parades!

Wendy said...

Ummm, the guy ran out of gas in the middle of the parade?? What's that they say? Piss poor planning prevent parades?

And how the hell did the Sumo guy jump so high?

Stefunkc said...

I feel so honored. Really, I have goose bumps! Not only are Shawn and the girls pictured on your blog...I'm a link. Really I am speechless. Except while I was screaming at Shawn to hurry and come look. You were missed on the 4th. It ended up just being my family. Wish I'd known that ahead of time. Dinner this week is a must!

Nate's Mom said...

I grew up in a similar small town in California (yes, there are small towns in California). Our big festival is the Harvest Festival in September. Our Harvest parade looks very much like your parade. I too marched in it for several years in the band. We now live about an hour away and take the kids every year for the parade. Both of our parents still live there. Fun memories!

Patti in NJ said...

I don't think it's a BEER beer - I think it's a Stewart's ROOT beer!

Anonymous said...

Me and my mom went this year and I kinda looked around for you because I KNEW you would be there. Of course we got there late and missed much of it, but it was fun and next year we will be there on time.


Anonymous said...

oh and who drives their car in a parade and doesnt make sure they have enough gas to make it down the street??? too funny!


Love Being A Nonny said...

Your children are blessed! I am from a larger city but raised my children here in small town USA! My children have small town parade memories and I am so glad!

angela conklin
nc friend thru your entries


Thanks for sharing your memories! How nice that you have come full circle so to speak and can give your kids the same wonderful experiences!