Thursday, July 5, 2012

Small Town Fourth

The Honor Guard always leads the parade.

On July 2, 1776 the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a declaration of independence from the British Empire. The following day John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, the following: “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

Adams missed the date by a couple of days – since the initial signings became more famous than the approval – but his prediction of celebration was right on the mark. The Fourth of July celebration is a tradition ingrained in the fabric of American life.

In the spirit of the day
  While there may be more spectacular celebrations, replete with parades containing long lines of massive floats and followed by incredible displays of fireworks, it’s the thousands of small town parades that truly define the day. From the initial Honor Guard carrying the colors, to the very end of the parade, it’s life in America on display.

Kenai celebrates the Fourth just like any other small town, except we don’t have fireworks. Fireworks are an exercise in eye strain due to the excessive daylight.

“Ooooh, that was a good one!”

“Ahhhh, nice puff of smoke and great boom. What color do you suppose it was?”

The crowds gather early in anticipation.
   Kenai’s annual parade is big doings for the residents, and a point of curiosity for tourists. Even though the weather is almost guaranteed to be cool and damp (the number of sunny days we’ve had for the Fourth of July parade over the years could be counted on one of Mickey Mouse’s hands), people start lining up along the parade route more than an hour before it starts. Mainly because offers a prime time to chat with friends you haven’t seen in awhile, and catch up on the latest news.

Red, white, and ol' Blue

To describe the Kenai parade as a highly organized and well choreographed event would be an inaccuracy. The only organization readily evident is placing the various horse riding clubs at the end of the parade. Over the years it has been determined that marching behind dozens of horses can prove problematic without dedicated intervention between the horses and those following.

Nor are the entry requirements particularly stringent. Just about anything mobile can join in the parade. A willingness to travel the mile-long route seems to be the only criteria for selection. Entries are everything from political candidates throwing candy, to the 4-H Club, to the Nikiski and Kenai Fire Departments, to Harley riders and even a school bus. (Years ago, the garbage trucks were spiffed and buffed for the event, but I suspect fly and odor issues put a nix on those entries.) This year the school bus was sporting something new, a sign advertising a need for drivers. Not hard to imagine the kind of damper a school bus puts on the celebration for kids.

This entry in the parade is sure to put a damper on the festivities for the kids.
We have to trust nothing is going to catch fire while the parade takes place.
   This year’s parade was bigger than normal, lasting an hour and a half with sixty-five entrants, according to the parade officials.  I’m guessing they counted each of the local dirt track racers that towed their cars down the street as individual entries. However, there was an actual float, one that obviously required much planning and preparation, and deservedly earned first-place recognition.

This year's winning float
 Following the main event, both parade entrants and spectators gather at a “Midway” on the Kenai ballpark grounds. There’s food, vendors, food, musicians and food.  All in all, a great way to celebrate our country’s birth. I do, however, miss the garbage trucks.

Obligatory post-parade funnel cake
Low rider promoting spay and neutering - see entry requirements.

Note to readers: I apologize for the quality of the pictures. Forgot the camera, and had to use my phone. 

1 comment:

  1. I miss the small town feel...down here in the mass of population. Thanks for sharing your great 4th.