Small Town, Big Celebration

April 7, 2010
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One of my favorite holidays is the Fourth of July. It’s not necessarily because I’m proud of our independence, although that is true, but it’s the Saturday closest to the fourth that I like best. Every year there is a big celebration in Wanderoos, and the whole town attends.

The day starts off, usually sometime around ten o’clock, with the kiddy parade. Adults and teenagers sit and watch all the children as they walk, ride their bikes, or rollerblade down the street. A lot of kids even pull their younger siblings along in a wagon, like my sister used to do with me. The children finish and then go sit with their parents to enjoy the real parade. Although the parade isn’t very big, it’s still a lot of fun to watch. There are the Garfield Township fire trucks, the Wanderoos Queen Court, and various other organizations. Some years, there is even a band that comes and marches through. However, they don’t wear uniforms, try to line up, or even stay in step. The parade is a lot of fun because the majority of the audience knows almost everyone in the parade.

The Fourth of July celebration is also a very important day for the Wanderoos Queen Court and the next year’s candidates. During the kiddy parade, these girls hold the Queen’s Tea. The tea is an opportunity for the girls to interact with the courts from other towns. The queens trade pins, with a picture of their court on them, to put on their sashes. After the tea, the girls rush to their floats and prepare to ride through the parade. The girls are all smiles and waves as they pass through the ecstatic crowd. Once the parade is over, the Wanderoos float is parked on the ball field, where the coronation is about to take place.
In Wanderoos, the selection of queens is much different than in any other town. Instead of earning points from talent shows and interviews, the Wanderoos Queen Court is literally chosen by chance. All of the candidates’ names are written on a piece of paper, which is then put into a hat. An adult draws four names from the hat and announces them as the new Wanderoos Court. The random selection of girls is how I ended up as Little Miss Wanderoos, while another girl who was the same age as me, was crowned Miss Wanderoos. When you are as young as the candidates in Wanderoos, being crowned is the best feeling in the world. Unfortunately, soon after hearing our names, we heard muffled sobs as one of the other candidates ran to the bathroom. Our new First Princess chased after and they soon returned together. However, it was not the Princess wearing the sash and crown; it was the crying little girl. Wanderoos finally chose a princess who was selfless enough to give up her glory to make another girl’s dreams come true. Although most people would agree that crowning the girls by chance is unfair, sometimes the elimination of biased opinions is how real princesses are found.

After the coronation, the queens’ float leaves the field, so the annual softball tournament can begin. All of the softball teams are co-ed, and they are required to have a certain number of women and children on the field whenever they are playing defense. To add some comedy to the games, there is another twist. While the women and kids are allowed to hit a normal softball, the men have to hit something called a kitten ball. A kitten ball is much larger than a normal softball and it just barely fits in an adult softball glove. The players are very entertaining as they struggle to catch and throw the large ball. Meanwhile, the audience members are enjoying their chicken dinners and ice cream sundaes, which are served every year. There are also many games set up for children. The kids can dig in a pile of sawdust for quarters, or play in a bouncy castle. Most of the children join together to play their own softball game, after the co-ed tournament is finished. Since most of the activities are for children, a lot of parents go home to rest for a couple hours of the day. To avoid having a small crowd, the Wanderoos Lions Club holds a raffle, and calls the names of winners throughout the day. Unfortunately, even that isn’t enough to interest adults for an entire day. Everybody, however, manages to return at nightfall for the dance and fireworks.

When the dance first starts, hardly anyone gets on the dance floor. Music, either being played by a band or a DJ, is pumping through the speakers. A couple of immature teenagers and drunken adults are dancing, but everyone else is either standing around the edges talking, or goofing around on the ball field. Everyone makes it out onto the floor when either the Chicken Dance or the Hokey-Pokey is being played, and a lot of people stay out there afterwards. More and more people start to loosen up and dance as their favorite songs come on, or after they’ve had a few more drinks. The dance floor is soon a mixture of people teaching each other new line dances and little kids imitating Michael Jackson. After a couple hours of dancing, the crowd settles down to watch the fireworks, lit by our very own Fire Department of Garfield. All of the kids rush onto the field to find the spots with the best views. Everyone turns to the North expectantly, ever since the fireworks show in the South started the woods on fire. Although the show itself isn’t very impressive, the viewers have fun whispering and blindly stumbling into each other on the pitch-black field. After the not-so-grand finale, the young kids go home and everyone else returns to the dance floor. The music is so loud that I can hear it from my bedroom, a mile away, even at three in the morning. Once the late-night party animals get tired out, they make it home, leaving the ball park empty. Finally the Fourth of July celebration has ended.

Although I don’t get any presents or candy, the Fourth of July really is one of the best holidays. Our traditions may seem weird and irrelevant, but they are the things that we will remember for the rest of our lives. Between the parade, games, hanging out with old neighbors, dancing, and the firework show, it really is impossible not to have fun.





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