Every year we pack up the kids, the sunscreen, and the lawn chairs and head down south. Well, by “down south,” I mean our hometown, which is about 50 miles south of where we live. I believe we’ve only missed the hometown festivities one year, which was when my brother-in-law got married on Mackinac Island. Although it was very cool to be able to go to the beach and watch fireworks over Lake Michigan on the 4th, there is something that draws me back to the small town every year. Maybe it’s seeing how many people I recognize in the parade. Maybe it’s the smell of the cotton candy. Or maybe it’s my curiosity of just how run-down the rides will be THIS year. Whatever it is, it never seems to disappoint. And this year was no exception!
Each year we plan to walk uptown to get seats by 10:00 for the 11:00 parade, and it seems each year we are running late and end up elbowing our way through the crowd and fighting for seats for 10 people. So this year, Husband and I got smart by getting around early and going uptown at 9:20 to reserve prime parade-viewing seats on the square. For the first hour or so, I was feeling really good about our decision. But then I started to sweat. Profusely. And I had to take the boys to the porta-potty to pee. And my eyes began to burn from innocently glancing at the couple who sat down beside us and getting an eyeful of BOOBS that were honest-to-Pete the biggest I have ever seen in real life and were completely falling out of the teensy-weensy white tank top the teenage girl was wearing (Her boyfriend didn’t seem to mind, however). And suddenly having to manhandle some old ladies for their seats 10 minutes before the parade started didn’t sound so bad.
The kids busied themselves planning their strategy for netting as much candy as possible.
“Okay, you cover the perimeter, and I’ll crash through the middle of the crowd…”
At last—11:00 and time for the parade to begin! Wanna see some highlights? I thought so. Here you go!
Boy #1 was Celebrity-for-a-Day because he actually got to be IN the parade this year! Here he is, representing the Vintage Lawn and Garden Tractor Trail Riders (Seriously, that’s a REAL club) with his cousin. That’s them in the back.
Our hometown Fareway grocery store does this amazing choreographed routine with shopping carts every year. Good thing they weren’t using the shopping carts I always seem to get—the ones with the one wheel that sticks, causing me to swerve all over the aisles uncontrollably! They obviously know how to choose the GOOD ones.
Granny wasn’t actually IN the parade, but I had to throw her in here because she’s so stinkin’ CUTE in her red, white, and blue! At 86 years old she still sat through the hot parade with us. What a woman! We love Granny!
Husband, Brother-in-Law, Sister-in-Law, and I entertained ourselves with a little side show we called “Watch the Crazy Lady Pounce on the Candy.” I know this picture isn’t very good, but I was trying to be discreet. Literally, this woman ran, long 80s hair flying in the breeze, the ENTIRE parade, and picked up any stray piece of candy she could find. Sometimes she’d throw it to a kid, just to make her look good, but we’re sure she was hording about 95% of it to feed some kind of serious Starlight Peppermint addiction. She was up and down the street, weaving in and out of floats and bicycles while dodging horse poop. We’re sure she’s been training for this all year, most likely by picking up cans alongside the road. Husband even tried setting a trap for her by unwrapping a piece of candy and placing it in plain view on the street, but she didn’t bite. I think she sensed we had caught on to her sugary scheme…
Yeah, this photo would’ve been MUCH better had I been paying attention and saw this BEFORE it went by. This is my sister and brother-in-law’s outhouse a la Dr. Seuss to fit with this year’s parade theme. Yes, every year my sister and her husband design and build an outhouse for their business, Highway Lumber (Buy all your home improvement supplies here!). Now usually, my sister has to actually participate in the Outhouse Race, where she has to be pushed in the outhouse-on-wheels and perform all kinds of nauseating tasks, like splashing through a tank of what looks exactly like CRAP to find one lone corn cob. Let’s just say that I’m pretty sure she timed her pregnancy specifically so she could avoid the race this year.
And of course NO parade is complete without a walking can of Spam!
Later that afternoon, we headed back up to the square so we could put our children’s lives in the hands of chain-smoking carnival workers while they totally rip us off with their Disneyworld-ish prices. “Sure I’ll pay you $5 so my kid can sit on this rusty piece of metal that’s missing a few bolts and go in a circle for exactly 45 seconds!”
We had to hit the carousel first as Boy #3 had been asking for WEEKS when he could ride the “horses.” This ride was actually in fairly good condition. It pretty much went downhill from here.
This “ride” (and I use the term “ride” loosely) was probably the biggest rip-off. I think it cost about $4 for Boy #2 to climb up some steps and slide down this pathetic slide, all of which took approximately 20 seconds. (Lucky for us, Grandma bought all the kids’ tickets, so didn’t have to shell out our own money. Thanks, Grandma!)
And what mom doesn’t feel safe letting her 3-year-old climb onto a ride that looks like THIS? It appears as if the Maintenance Department must’ve gotten laid off…Hey, a company’s gotta cut corners somewhere! Why not safety?
Boy #1 talked Grandma into riding on this ride, fortunately. I don’t do dizzy anymore. Oh, and it was while I was watching them here that I nearly stepped in a pile of chunky puke in the grass. Nothing says “Happy Independence Day” like stepping in someone else’s vomit.
“No, really, you go right on smoking! Don’t even put your cigarette down when you’re strapping my kid into a teddy bear-shaped deathtrap, okay? Maybe you could flick a few ashes on him or at least blow smoke into his face while you’re at it! Pretty please?!?”
I don’t know what delighted me more—to see that my favorite game, The Knife Game, was back or to listen to my 10-year-old beg me to play the game.
This still isn’t quite as good as the one year they were not only giving away knives, but also live rabbits!
As tradition would have it, we capped off our evening at my parents’ house to watch the fireworks. Now these have greatly improved over the years. We used to be happy with one sad little firework every 4 minutes, which usually caused me anxiety wondering if the show was over or if another colorful explosion would light up the sky as soon as we pulled onto the road. Many years and one big riverboat casino later and we’ve got multiple fireworks going up at once, fireworks shaped like hearts and smiley faces, and a finale that doesn’t leave me asking, “Is that it?”
Wearing eau de bugspray, we park our lawn chairs with about 30 of our closest friends and relatives and “oooh” and “aaah” to our hearts’ content.
Here’s my youngest sister and my mom waiting for the show to begin.
It was getting a little chilly, so I zipped up my cute little friend in my jacket. I thought this would also be a good way to smuggle her out of the yard so I could take her home with me, but before I could, she unzipped herself and climbed back onto her mom’s lap. DANG!
“Okay, #3, sure, you’re right. You stayed awake.”
Did I mention that I could hear him snoring over the booming of the fireworks?
God bless small towns, and God bless America!