Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fourth of July in a Small Town

Our country's birthday is a real big deal in Susquehanna County, PA. Oh you might go to Scranton for St. Patrick's Day or someplace else for a Christmas parade, but if you aren't in Montrose, PA for the Independence Day parade, you're nowhere.

Last night we drove down to Wyoming County to Tunkhannock High School for the opening salvo of our holiday. That town has the best fireworks show around in our estimation. We found a huge crowd already gathered when we arrived early and it grew until the football field and surrounding lawns were packed with people of all ages. There were also people lined up along Route 6 and on porches in neighborhoods with a good view. Kiwanis volunteers collected donations ensuring that next year's show will be just as spectacular as last night's extravaganza.

I've often wondered what it would be like to fly over a fireworks show. Last night some of the rockets went so high I wondered if any small planes were nearby. Guess not. Other fireworks just to the left of those rockets were new to me, swirling, pulsating, screaming streaks of color and the pop, pop, pop of blinding lights. At 69 I was sqealing and cheering just as much as the children around us.

Today was the big parade in the Susquehanna County seat of Montrose. It's a lovely town with many large old homes built in the early 1900's by wealthy Philadelphia people who discovered how beautiful it is here in the summer. It's a staunchly conservative Republican area. The people are religious and they maintain old-fashioned values. As a Democrat I'm part of a tiny minority here but I love the people so I just keep my mouth shut. When I was a reporter for the weekly paper, it drove the county commissioners nuts that they couldn't figure out where I stood on things so they actually looked me up in the voting records to find out. Imagine their shock!

Anyway, we're as patriotic as they are and my husband was in the Marine Corps as were many of our neighbors. We always show up for the parade. It lasts an hour these days with all the typical ingredients for a good country parade: veterans, high school bands (2), Dixieland bands, Cub Scouts, local clergy in golf carts (there's an excellent course here), old tractors, classic cars, fire engines, floats, and politicians. We also have a local group reminiscent of "Stomp" who we all love, gorgeous horses (one carrying George Washington this year), dirt track race cars, Ronald McDonald, and queens of this and that. Bringing up the rear every year is Charlie Chaplin with a janitor's cart.

The crowd is unbelievable. Everyone brings the kids and grandma, and we see people we haven't seen for months. The parade ends at the town green where there are craft booths and food stands, barbecued chicken at the firehouse, and wonderful smells.

This evening we'll see fireworks at our high school on the hill but most of the out-of-town visitors will have gone home by them. The population of Montrose swells by thousands during this day as folks drive in from New York, New Jersey, and other parts of Pennsylvania. Then they go home and the town easily slips back into normal quiet days. Well, that is until the Blueberry Festival next month. You ought to see the crowd then!

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