Sunday, July 05, 2009

There ain't nothin' like a small-town Fourth of July

One of the highlights of being back home is the annual Fourth of July celebration. In typical small-town fashion, everything happens exactly the same way every year. Pancake breakfast at 7 am, parade follows at 9, Friends of the Library used book sale in the basement of the library after the parade, flea market/craft fair and brat/burger/corn on the cob/beer stands in the park with live music from noon until sundown in the park, capped off with fireworks in the park at dusk.

But, this year there was a change. *Gasp, gasp* Some fatal breakage in the ancient kitchen at the community building rendered the making of pancakes and sausage impossible, so the whole breakfast was moved to the cafeteria at the K-12 school just down the street. Thank goodness. The old place was tiny, congested and nearly impossible to navigate. The school cafeteria area is spacious and is designed for mass food service and crowd control. Everybody stood around looking at the scene and shaking their heads. "Why didn't we do this years ago?" everybody asked.

But, due to concerns that the announcement in the paper and on local media and at the information bureau wasn't enough, the organizers hauled in a large road construction sign like this one:

to place on the corner by the community building redirecting everybody to the school. And, according to my sources on the street, they only announced it in every pause between floats during the parade.

So, the pancake breakfast, was, as always, hugely busy. On to the parade.

We're a tiny town (600 in town, less than 2,000 in the whole area) that attracts upwards of 10,000 visitors for the Fourth of July weekend. The running joke is that the entire town is in the parade while the visitors line the streets to watch. And we still have to recruit outside marching bands to flush things out a little bit. On the night of July 3rd, we had to make a last minute run down mainstreet at 10 pm for a late-night errand. People were already setting out chairs to reserve their spaces along the route. It's that big a deal.

The weather this Fourth of July was picture perfect. Highs in the low 70s/20s, clear blue sky, no wind. The crowds came to ooh and aww at the variety of features and get all the candy they could snare.

Post-parade is sheer insanity as everybody rushes to the library to snag the best $0.25-$2.00 book deals in the basement of the library. Enter at your own risk. Photography highly discouraged for your own safety.

Once the book beast is tamed, people scatter, some to get the last of the pancakes, some to get their brats and burgers and fleas, some to the hardware store and nick-nac stories and ice cream parlor on mainstreet. Within a couple of hours, though, town has pretty much emptied out and everybody is off to hit the lakes.

Then in the evening, they come. And they come and they come and they come. Like the final scene in The Field of Dreams. Drawn to the promise of light and bangs, they gather at the park with blankets and snacks and hope.

Last night was, once again, the perfect night. Cool, not a cloud in the sky. A nearly full moon welcomed us, shining just brightly enough to keep us from tripping over our neighbors, but not too ostentatiously as to outshine the pyrotechnics.

And the show begins.

Out little town spares no expense, and the show seems endless. Several times the whole crowd starts clapping, certain that that is the end. And yet more come until a final earth-shaking finale, punctuated by one last exploding star.

And we all go home. Those on foot feel very intelligent, indeed.

Another perfect Fourth of July in the perfect place to celebrate it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that blog Erica. It sounds like nothing has really changed since my last Fourth of July in Three Lakes who knows how long ago...
And because of our Alaska daylit nights, those fireworks are the only ones we'll be seeing this summer.
Cheers! Karin