There’s nothing like a small-town July 4th celebration

Since moving to southern Iowa when I was 4, I can remember missing my hometown’s 4th of July celebration only twice — once right after Husband and I were married and we chose to stay in northern Iowa, where we lived, to celebrate with friends, and once when we traveled to Mackinac Island for my brother-in-law’s July 6 wedding. What is it that keeps us coming back? It’s not the flashiest celebration. It doesn’t bring in the biggest musical acts or boast the best carnival around. The fireworks can’t compete with those set off at the state capitol, only 50 miles north. There’s no live orchestra providing the score to the pyrotechnics display. But despite all that, there is something that draws us every year. Call it quaintness, call it naiveté.  Maybe it’s just plain pride. But that small-town celebration delivers just the right mix of tradition, fellowship, wonder and, yes, sometimes bewilderment, that makes my family — among hundreds of others — coming back for more.










I love the irony of this old man, probably a farmer, donning his ball cap bedazzled in red sequins and a white-sequined star while watching musical entertainment on the bandstand. The best part was that no one gave him a second look. (Except, possibly, me.)

Last year, we sat through rain to watch the parade. This year, it was a 100+ degree heat index and piercing sun. But, seriously, how could we even think of missing it, especially when we got to see entries such as this?








To be fair, I think this conversion van was actually pulling a float. However, I’m pretty sure the “float” consisted of a hay rack holding the “Short Cut” barber and maybe his grandkids. Although the theme for the floats this year was “Christmas in July,” it seemed more like “Less is more” or maybe even, “Who gives a flip?”








The parade was peppered with Santas as parade entries tried to get into the “Christmas in July” theme chosen for this year’s celebration. My shirt was visibly WET by the end of the parade from sweat. I really can’t imagine how Santa held up in his fur-lined suit, hat and beard. I sweated more just looking at him.







This Santa at least had the common sense to can the suit and instead go with a lavender T-shirt.








When in doubt, post a disclaimer on your float.








Apparently, they confused “Christmas in July” with “Halloween in July.” A hearse with an arm hanging out the back — it’s good old-fashioned family fun, folks.










It is not the 4th of July until I have spotted the walking Spam can. He is my favorite walking meat-substitute character ever.










No, these dudes were not in the parade, but they did enjoy parading around in all their glory. I admit, it was swelteringly hot, but I think these guys would’ve gone shirtless even if it was 30 degrees and snowing. But come on, if you were that buff, wouldn’t you?








Speaking of the heat, the parade was held up for a bit because some old guy had his 100-year-old mom or wife (not sure which) in the van to watch the parade and she passed out. Not the best idea when the heat index is 110 degrees, sir. Granted, you at least had the windows down, but still, the poor woman was probably baking with the sun beating down on the vehicle. Please, people, when I am over 90 and the temperature is over 90, let me stay home in the air-conditioning. I promise I won’t be angry that I’m missing it.

While we’re on the subject of vehicles, there are always a lot of vehicles in the parade. All shapes, all sizes, all colors. And since we’re in Iowa, we can’t have a parade without tons of tractors.








Hey, who’s driving my car???








And along with vehicles, we also have lots of animals. Usually, just horses, like these.







I found this horse’s blinders very disturbing. And I thought it was possibly the most humiliating thing you could make a horse wear, until I saw this…








Poor thing. It looked like something from Flashdance, and I could tell it was embarrassed. I think the owner should’ve had to wear matching pink legwarmers and beads in his hair too.










The Grinch was not happy, and I don’t blame her. I can’t imagine how hot she was in that green makeup, hat and coat, along with that black plastic garbage big sticking to her leg. But hey, at least she stayed in character.








You know you’re in small-town Iowa when you see people walking their goats in a parade. However, I almost missed the quintessential small-town Iowa parade entry. See if you can spot it, as I only managed to snap a photo after it passed me.








If you can’t tell, it’s a cow. But what you can’t see is that — a girl was riding it. This was a first for me. I grew up with cows and didn’t have a clue that I could’ve actually been riding them that whole time. And to think of how I used to ride my imaginary horse through the pastures, when all I had to do was throw a saddle on Bessie. Who knew?

After the parade we took our heat-stroked and sunburnt selves back to the paradise of air-conditioning before heading back uptown for the carnival rides. Here I am with two of the Boys, sporting my sexy tan.










Yes, I was a lobster. A highlight, though, was burning my cleavage. Not actually having cleavage until my recent weight gain, this was a first, and although it was a tad bit painful, I thought the white line in between really accentuated the fact that I now have a rather ample bosom. (My apologies to anyone reading this who is under the age of 35 and has to look up the word “bosom.”)






Although carnival and amusement park rides rank right up there with circuses and magic in my mind, somehow I found myself on a ride with my nephew. I’m blaming it on the fact that it’s called “The Sizzler.” Didn’t that used to be the name of a steakhouse? I was temporarily confused and thought I was volunteering to taste a ribeye, not spin in circles. Oh well, nothing goes with a massive sunburn like vertigo.

If you didn’t think of a carney as a glamorous job, think again. Notice the disco ball hanging in this booth? Not only did the worker get to control a ride under the strobing effect of the disco ball, he also got to be in charge of the music that was blaring out of the massive speaker in the trailer beside him.







Yes, yes I did win the hat. And no, you can’t borrow it.







Carnival prize suicide, although swept under the rug by the mainstream media because of the powerful carnival barker lobby, is on the rise. Sadly, Wish Bear’s last wish — to ditch this life on the road and maybe retire at some quiet second-hand store — did not come true.







Well, that’s all I have to report from this year’s small-town 4th of July. Despite the snarkiness of my post, I really do enjoy the celebration. (I’m getting a little afraid that one year I’m going to get to the city limits on July 3 and see a sign stating that I’m hereby banned from the festivities.)






Until next year, Creepy Carousel Bunny says he’ll be watching you… while you sleep…

Want more small-town 4th of July fun? Check out the highlights of 2008, 2009 and 2010!


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