That Same Small Town In Each of Us: Notes on a Parade

That Same Small Town In Each of Us: Notes on a Parade

Published Jul 8, 2021 by Rick Cundiff

Small towns – where would we be without them? (I know, wise guy, either standing in a field or in the big city.)

No, seriously. Small town America is an icon of literature, music, movies and plays. Often, they’re invoked in a nostalgic sense, an emblem of a time when life was simpler – or was it?

Whether the Willoughby of the Twilight Zone or the Grover’s Corners of Our Town, small towns often call to us with a promise of picnics, town squares, concerts and an idyllic life free of computers, cars and complications.

That’s usually too simplistic for today’s world, of course. Reality can be harsh wherever you are.

Still, there’s a certain timeless magic in just about any little burg. Don Henley sang about it in “The End of the Innocence,” calling it “that same small town in each of us.” It’s a hope, a belief in the future.

And nowhere is that belief expressed more fully than in Fourth of July parades, There’s an earnestness to local parades that encompasses our belief in the great American experiment. I had the opportunity to see one such parade last weekend, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, in the little town of Iron Mountain.

The town itself is a time warp kind of place, looking and feeling very much like you’ve stepped back to the 1950s or early ‘60s. It’s had its ups and downs over the years, but industry’s still there. There are a couple of decent-paying factories in town, and a fair number of hipster-magnet coffee shops as well.

The parade certainly lived up to the time warp feeling.  Led off by local veterans marching with the flag, it featured the combined bands of two local high schools. There were convertibles with the grand marshal and other local notables. Flatbed trailers hauled football players, cheerleaders and the junior hockey team.

Teenagers tossed candy to young children at the curb. Clowns cavorted, businesses showed off the latest tractors and Captain America even performed CPR on Spiderman (it was a promo for the local CPR training program.)

You really couldn’t watch that parade without getting a dose of the classic American spirit, the can-do ethos that keeps us going in the face of economic challenges, tumultuous politics, even a pandemic. There was a gritty pride in the town, in the participants, in the spectators. Just as there is in every other small town.

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