LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Parades are fine, as long as we don’t force them on people

The 4th of July parades that I’ve attended over the past 30 years have been emblematic of small-town American pride and patriotism, gathering together a mix of people for a few hours of old-fashioned community spirit. My family always seems to be in Michigan on the 4th, and we are lucky enough to get to go to two 4th of July parades–one in the village of Pentwater on July 3rd and the other in the slightly larger town of Ludington on the 4th. Both are followed by fireworks, and we even have the chance to enjoy fireworks on July 2nd in the nearby small town of Hart. That’s a lot of patriotism!

So, could we call these military parades? Well, there are always some veterans, either walking or riding if too old or too injured to walk. Inevitably, the crowd applauds as the old soldiers go by. But they aren’t carrying weapons. The high school marching bands that everyone loves do wear uniforms and sometimes there are drill teams, but they don’t even use pretend rifles in their routines–they use flags.

Also in those small-town parades are Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, floats bearing local politicians and others with some cause they want to promote. Many of them toss candy or balloons to the hopeful children lining the street. Then there are the fire engines and horse-drawn wagons, with a pick-up crew and cart following. And always towards the end is the Scottville Clown Band, which I won’t even try to describe.

People set up folding chairs early, lining the street to save their places. But by parade time, they have agreeably let children slip in front of them. When an adult without children catches candy and gives it to a nearby child, nods and smiles pass among the adults, not quite strangers anymore during this shared experience.

It’s always possible to find a place to sit or stand, and it becomes a real community experience shared by those who just happen to be standing next to each other. When the bands go by, and especially when they stop right in front of you and play stirring marches, and small American flags are passed out (along with candy and bead necklaces), it becomes an enthusiastic patriotic party, one that has meaning not only because it is local but also because you know that it is being enacted in thousands of towns across the country.

And here’s something I think is important–every town that holds a 4th of July celebration does it independently. No national or state entity requires or even suggests it, and certainly no one pays for it other than the town itself.

So Congressman Jim Banks, please don’t encourage anyone to hold a national parade in our part of Indiana. And please, powers that be in Washington D.C., don’t let the military listen to any loose cannons to plan a national parade. The 4th of July is perfect the way it is–local, peace-loving, fun, and American!

— Ginny Clark, Fort Wayne