The first Independence Day parade I remember attending was in Acton, California, when I was a teenager. Although it was only a short drive away, it might as well have been another world. The residents of this small town were still very much cowboys. I believe there was a rodeo involved, but I don’t remember exactly. But I do know that it was well over 100ºF. and we were all getting sunburned and sick from the heat. I recall thinking that I was hoping for a small-town parade like I’d seen on television but instead we got dry, windblown, dust. Us pampered suburban folks couldn’t stand the heat like those cowboys could!
The next July 4th parade I attended was some 25 years later when The Mister and I lived in Northern Indiana. This time, it was what I had thought a small-town parade would be like–the high school marching band, the local beauty queens riding on floats, the fraternal organizations dressed in their regalia, and, of course, the mayor and city council members riding in convertibles.
And now, The Mister and I live in an historic neighborhood that has its own kiddie parade every July 4th. The kids decorate their bicycles and parents pull the toddlers in spiffed up wagons. After the parade, everyone gets together for a good old-fashioned picnic of hotdogs and hamburgers. As the sun begins to set, families begin the journey to one of the local fireworks venues and the rest of us go inside to watch A Capitol 4th on PBS.
I found this home movie on Archive.org. The first part of the video shows the All States Picnic Parade in Ontario, California, from July 4, 1955. In addition to the beauty queens and local big-wigs, it also shows the Spanish-influenced equestrian groups that were so popular in the mid-century. The original film didn’t have any sound so I added some patriotic music that I found at the Library of Congress.
Like any family, the United States is not perfect. We have some serious problems that we need to come together for to find win-win solutions. But, every time I hear our national anthem, I can’t help but get choked up. Happy birthday, America. And may we have many, many more.
What are your memories of your Independence Day parades?
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