Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence City

For the first time in years I didn't go home for Independence Day.  Nothing against my family, it's just that they all had plans of their own.  This year was my parents' 40th high school class reunion, which was held over this past weekend.  My mom was in charge of planning it, so my dad had to attend by default.  I'm sure that if the choice was his, he would have preferred to stay home.  My brother is also busy over 4th of July weekend.  He works for the city in the summer taking care of the parks and ball fields.  Many tournaments happen over the weekends, so Andrew spends most of his day working.  Except for during Water Balloon Wars.

Water Balloon Wars is an event that happens every 4th of July in my town, and is sponsored by the high school FFA chapter.  Water Balloon Wars is basically capture the flag.  If you get hit by a water balloon, you are out.  Really, it's a fun game to play, but the competition is way too fierce for this girl.  Usually, I go simply to be a proud supporter of my brother.  It is a big deal to him, as his team usually claims the championship trophy.

Here are some pictures from past years:
Water Balloon Wars Championship, 2008

Championship Game, 2009

Championship Trophy, 2009

This year, it rained on July 4th.  It rained a lot.  Therefore, Water Balloon Wars was cancelled.  I wasn't there to see it, but I'm sure that my brother was in a state of mourn.  Furthermore, the hot dog eating contest on ESPN was apparently not an exciting competition this year without that Kobayashi guy.  This event is another staple of my brother's 4th of July experience every year.  He looks forward to these events all year, and to not have them was a huge disappointment.

Hopefully, my brother understands that, although they are fun traditions, those kinds of things are not what Independence Day is all about.

The town of Ralston, Nebraska, certainly understands the true meaning of Independence Day.  That's where I spent my Sunday.

My kind friends Ashley and Jeremy invited me to their hometown to spend the day with their closest family and friends.  All year, I hear about how amazing Ralston is on the 4th of July.  They have even nicknamed the town "Independence City."  Finally, this year, I got to experience it for myself.

Just like in Superior, though, it was raining in Ralston.  We were slated to go on some sort of "fun run," which are normally two words that do not appear together in any sentence I construct.  It was only a mile, and you are allowed to walk, which I definitely would have had to do.  Because of the rain, though, they opted out of this "fun."  Thank goodness.

We did, however, go to the parade.  It was the perfect year for me to attend the event, as they were celebrating their 50th consecutive parade.  A bunch of old people around us were talking about how in all 50 years of this parade, this was the first year that they were being rained on.  That would be my luck.

These people are NUTS about their parade.  So much that they go stake out a spot a week in advance.  Literally.  When we arrived, I followed as the whole family set up camp inside a large square that was defined by lines of caution tape that had been staked into the ground.  I have never seen the likes.  It was a good spot, though.  We could hear the announcers and watch the step teams dance in the street, and yet we were far enough away from any parade clowns that might have potentially scared me the small children with whom we were sitting.  

It continued to rain throughout the event, and although I had my umbrella, I was still getting wet.  And you know how well my hair doesn't do when it is rainy and/or humid.  Oh, well.  Here are Ashley and I trying to stay dry at the parade:
Still in good spirits, even though it was raining!

I should have taken more pictures of this parade, but the only one I took was this one:
I don't know why, but it was intriguing to me.  They called themselves the "Candy Corn Mothers," which, I presume, is some sort of club/secret society.  Marching behind this float were younger people dressed in a similar color scheme, and they had their own candy corn title.  I did some Googling, but didn't come up with an answer.  If you know anything about this group, I'd be interested in hearing the story.

Rain or not, it was a fun parade.  It lasted nearly an hour-and-a-half, which is definitely longer than any parade my hometown has ever produced.

After spending a bit more time with Ashley's sweet family, we went over to the Harrell family's house, which is apparently Ashley and Jeremy's second family.  They were the parents of Ashley and Jeremy's best friends, Mike and Casey.  This family gave me such a warm welcome, and I really enjoyed getting to know them.

After a few hours there, we headed off to the Ralson community fireworks show, which is almost as highly regarded as the parade.  Instead of caution tape to mark off our reserved fireworks viewing spot, they had rope being held together by 3-foot-tall metal stakes.  Although some of the family seemed embarassed by the measures that were taken by Mr. Harrell, we ended up with a great spot for fireworks viewing.  They put on a pretty stellar show!

After the fireworks, we navigated back to the Harrell house so that I could head back to Lincoln.  We traveled through some of the strangest fog that I have ever seen, but I made it home safely, thank goodness.

I've been invited back to Ralston next year to experience a rain-free Independence Day clebration.  Although I know that noboy can give a rain-free guarantee one year in advance, I do hope to be able to partake in the festivities again next year.

Please thank a veteran today.  The sacrifices that they have made and are continuing to make so that we may enjoy all of our freedoms are tremendous.  Thanks.

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