I am not the type of person to stand idly by, but jump into situations with both feet; my solution for happiness is to be the participant, not the observer in life. While vacationing in a tiny town in New Hampshire this week,  this was made abundantly clear amidst fireworks, balloons and extremely festive spirits!  I had the pleasure of watching a small town 4th of July parade.  Unlike more prominent parades in major cites where the crowds line the city streets 4 or 5 deep, standing and straining to get a better view, in THIS town, the crowds WERE the parade! A few people, including myself, sat in camp chairs in the shade, but our numbers paled in comparison to the participants in the parade; community members who obviously enjoyed this tradition throughout their lives in this town.

It goes without saying that everyone was dressed festively in red, white and blue hats, t-shirts, dresses, bathing suits and so forth. Balloons were afloat just as proudly as if they were in the Macy’s Parade.  (Granted, it only took 1 person to hold each balloon, but each person DID hold on tight!)  Whole families participated, and I envisioned life growing up in this town; first participating with the pregnant mom, who is waving the American flag and has her hair sprayed red, white and blue, to riding in the baby carriage adorned with balloons tied tightly and waving in the wind, to being pushed in the trike which has its handles and spokes decorated, to riding the bike wearing an Uncle Sam hat and flashing red, white and blue streamers,, to sashaying on the skateboard, trying to look “cool”, but thrilled to still be part of the family participation, to driving that shiny first teenager car ablaze with slogans and pulling a trail of tin cans, a few years “off” for college and young adult-hood, and then walking in the parade again, with the pregnant wife…  The cycle of life as evidenced by the small town 4th of July parade.

In addition to the participation of families, there were many “floats”.  They may not have been adorned with as many flowers as floats at the Rose Bowl Parade, but each float demonstrated a creativity and enthusiasm, including one where each holiday was depicted by an icon; Santa, Easter Bunny, Witch, New Year’s Baby (yes, dressed in a giant diaper carrying a giant baby bottle,) all waving American flags.  There were floats with farm animals from the 4-H clubs, a float with a large cow being milked, a religious float with sheep and a shepherd, and one float with a giant steer which was quite inviting until I looked closer; it was advertising you could buy your own steer and then have enough meat for a year!  (Fortunately, the steer looked happy and was unaware of the fate to come.)  There were many musicians, including a lone violin player, dressed in a long skirt, (red, white and blue, of course, with a small balloon tied to the end of her violin.)  She was playing and swaying and dancing, seemingly oblivious to the crowd.  The antique cars made their appearance, joined by the town ambulance and fire trucks. Nothing says 4th of July more than the flashing red lights and sirens of these vehicles!  (I had a momentary concern that the vehicles might be needed elsewhere while they were frolicking in the parade, this concern was tempered by the fact that everyone in the town was IN the parade, so they were actually appropriately placed!) Tractors drove by, with their green and yellow overshadowed by festive streamers, and the drivers wearing jeans with red, white and blue suspenders. Elderly people, waving red, white and blue Bingo cards, rode by in decorated golf carts, and a family of show offs rode gracefully by in Segways also appropriately decorated for the parade. (One could immediately tell that THAT family was not “native” to this simple town…)

Lastly, the piece de resistance for me was a lone, very tall, gentleman with a huge Uncle Sam Hat and an appropriate matching suit.  He had a slight smile on his face as he lopped along, not quite marching.  He did not turn to look at the crowd, but proudly walked tall, symbolizing the pride of this wonderfully, American town. He held a very long but thin dog leash.  At the end of the leash was the tiniest dog I had ever seen…a miniature Chihuahua, smaller than the size of his shoe.  It, too, was walking proud, and I swear I saw a smile on its face…

In this town, as in many other towns across American, these folks were not just observers on this holiday, but they were the participants; the main attraction. They ARE America!




To read more about our life, here is a link to my book:


The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

Link to the Readers Digest review of my book:  http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/


Comments on: "Be the Participant, not the Observer" (33)

  1. Sounds like our small town. But the one dressed as Uncle Sam here is our Mayor…and it is his birthday so it is very appropriate!

  2. Great post! You took me to that parade right along with you (except I didn’t have to deal with the heat :))!

  3. Thank you for taking me to the parade with you by sharing this vivid post. I wish I had really been there.

  4. Sounds like my small town on parade day, only our parades always have lots and lots of firetrucks. All blasting their sirens while the firefighters’ kids toss candy out the windows.

  5. What a great attitude, to participate rather than observe, often the harder choice, but always the more fulfilling one:)

  6. That sounds like so much fun! What a great memory!

  7. Enjoyed this post! Sounds like you had an awesome time!

  8. Beautiful post. I love when people get involved and aren’t just spectators.

  9. Takes me back to spending the Fourth in the small NY town where my grandparents lived. AND to the city of Arlington, Texas, where a good friend of mine has participated in the parade the last two years. I mean, a bunch of belly dancers in red, white and blue is VERY patriotic! And there were generations of families riding floats and classic cars.

  10. Thanks for sharing your 4th of July. It is wonderful to it see through your words, this small town marching with great pride and warm hearts.

  11. Our 4th of July celebration in Makawao, upcountry Maui is tomorrow. There will be a parade and since most of the participant are cowboys, most will be on horseback in their most colorful red, white and blue. But, the town is decked out in flags, bunting and balloons and is looking very festive. After the parade we will all head up to Oskie Rice Arena for the annual rodeo. I’ve always loved the way small town America celebrates this day. Thank you for sharing your 4th. I felt like I was a participant!

  12. Thank you…my fourth was less than stellar. Thanks for sharing.

  13. What a great Independence Day celebration! I love it. We don’t have an Independence Day parade in our town, so our particular neighborhood’s celebration mostly consists of lots of very loud illegal fireworks, which are each followed at our house by low growls or loud barking, depending on the dog’s annoyance level with that particular firework. Hee hee!

  14. I enjoyed being part of the grand parade. Glad it was such a great day!

  15. Not just a good story–but a good life lesson: don’t just observe! Participate. I like it.

  16. […] read a great post by Linda Petersen on her blog Raising Five Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane where she writes of her Fourth of July experience in a small town where the town was the Parade. A […]

  17. My family also enjoys our city’s Fourth of July Parade. The fire trucks, bands, veterans on motorcycles, floats, and vintage cars all add to the fun. We also get a yearly flyover of military planes that perform for the crowd. For me the Fourth of July is my favorite holiday!

  18. This blog made me miss my little town I grew up in. I moved from a little town in Idaho to a big city in Utah. There is no other American pride than a small town. Very descriptive. thank you for bringing back some happy memories.

  19. This post made me think of Thomas Kinkade paintings and the little town where I used to live- Placerville, CA. I love the “hometown feeling”.

  20. Please accept this nomination for the combined award…you deserve it. http://tryingtopray.wordpress.com/2013/07/11/it-must-be-award-season/

  21. mylivoniaranchhome said:

    I have always longed for small town life. I could almost feel beauty of the parade reading your post. Well written I really enjoyed reading it! My town is not small and does not have a parade. Sadly. We do have fireworks though and that is a parade of people in itself!

  22. We are not American, but celebrated Canada Day in a very small town with a 4 minute parade. I think there may have been one float. But I wouldn’t have had it any different. Small is awesome!! I love our small town-ness and usually small town people ARE involved in everything about making life what it’s like in this unique and wonderful place. Isn’t being in the middle of it fun?

  23. Reblogged this on Sherry's Space and commented:
    I agree, I am the same way

  24. We love our small town parade ad well. John Deere tractors, fire trucks, kids on bikes, the campy and creative. It’s America at its best!

  25. This was a great post of the 4th of July! where I live, there are always parades here & people who live here & also the crowd. There is always about the same in parades & crowds put together but can never say that for sure. I do love parades & sometimes watch the Macy’s thanksgiving parade in new York. Thanks & have a great day!

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