Small Town Parades

My childhood memories of Independence Day include a parade of neighborhood children through our subdivision carrying homemade signs and riding tricycles and move on to the professional floats that attracted much larger crowds to Fair St. Louis beneath the Gateway Arch.

Now, we’re living in Brainerd, a smaller railroad town turned resort community in central Minnesota, and take part in what the community organizers hail as “Minnesota’s 4th of July Capital.” Truly, I am amazed that 35,000-40,000 people turn out for the parade, community corn feed and fireworks display, but there is something about a small town celebration that attracts the spirit of the day. Last year, when we visited elsewhere for the Fourth, it just didn’t feel like the same holiday to my kids.

I have mixed feelings about the large crowds that such community events draw together. When a large cross-section of people gather and bump up against one another you see and hear things you normally don’t. When my children were young and I was a little more cautious and probably a lot more judgmental, I felt on edge throughout such celebrations. Now, with time, they’ve grown easier in their needs and I’ve grown calmer in my attitude, and we all enjoy a good parade capped off with too much food and a burst of fireworks.

The parade itself is a phenomenon to me. Usually, it isn’t more than a two-hour stream of local dignitaries and princesses waving from the backs of convertibles, fire engines blaring and spraying hot crowds, floats on the backs of flatbed trucks, campaigning politicians, drum lines and dance lines, and a Shriner’s band.

This year we were honored to have General Bruce Carlson, a four-star general in the U. S. Air Force as the parade’s grand marshal. He grew up in Brainerd and is now commander of the Air Force Material Command at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. Even though this parade it is not a television-choreographed display of all things fantastic, the crowds staked out the best spots with blankets and lawn chairs the night before and early in the day.

All things seem right in America when you can leave your blanket along the city curb with four rocks weighing it down from the wind and come back to it eight hours later, untouched except for four complimentary flags laid upon it for us to wave while we watch. It is enough evidence to pass over current pessimism of American values and enjoy what attracts the big names and the big crowds to a small town parade.


  1. Mark Persons
    Jul 5, 2008


    Right on. Small towns are where American values shine the most. People are connected to the land and community. They take time to know and respect neighbors.

    Nice photos showing this smaller town in the Midwest. They tell the story of good people living a clean life believing in America and working to make the country an even better place.

    Quote: Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.” Adlai E. Stevenson, Jr.


  2. Rebecca
    Jul 5, 2008

    Summer just wouldn’t be summer without a crowded, hot, and sticky parade!

  3. Rachel Corbett
    Jul 8, 2008

    I love the 4th! We were in Dallas his year and it just wasn’t the same. We did make it to the fireworks, but missed out on our decorated bike and wagon parades, folowed by melty sno-cones!

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