Hip, Hip, Hooray for the Small-town Parade

I love a good small-town parade. The excitement, the community pride, the creativity and the DIY aspects of building a float, not to mention the many different ways to participate. During my lifetime, I’ve experienced parades from several vantage points – seated in the crowd, marching with my high school pep band, and riding along the route in the back of a car or atop a float. Each experience has offered a fresh perspective and equal amounts of fun.

But there’s something about a Fourth of July parade in Door County that seems to bring a little something extra to the experience. Maybe it’s the sun-kissed weather or the little extra boost of pride as we celebrate both our community and our country. Or maybe it’s the way these parades become a part of our Door County traditions, whether this place is your home or home away from home. 

The Main Street Market crew performs “death-defying” stunts during the 2017 Egg Harbor Fourth of July parade. Photo by Len Villano.

“[Parades] offer nostalgia and bring back memories from years past,” said Alyssa Rassmussen, the marketing and welcome-center manager for the Egg Harbor Business Association. “From babies to grandparents decked out in their red, white and blue, it is like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life.”

According to Rasmussen, newspaper clippings date Egg Harbor’s Fourth of July parade back to the 1930s. Over the years, it has attracted many longtime participants – both individuals and businesses – and it has consisted of fire trucks, business floats, horses, heavy machinery, marching bands, classic cars and shopping carts. 

“Shopping carts from Main Street Market, a bed and hot tub from Egg Harbor Lodge, [a] huge flag from Landmark Resort, tractors,” Rasmussen said, listing some of the floats and vehicles that have been a part of the parade. “There has been a cow, too!”

The children’s bike parade on Washington Island is a hallmark of the Independence Day holiday and a hit with both the young and young at heart. Photo by Sara Rae Lancaster.

The variety of creativity on display is definitely a draw for both spectators and participants. Parades are also an opportunity for participants such as Linda Blossom of Baileys Harbor to showcase their prized vehicles. 

“I am the owner of the 1953 Packers green-and-yellow pickup truck,” Blossom said proudly.

Though the truck, which she calls Bernie, has been in the Baileys Harbor parade on only a few occasions – the most recent was in 2019 – Blossom and her husband, John, have a history of representing the green and gold on the day that traditionally celebrates red, white and blue. 

“My husband has a 1952 John Deere tractor that, for a number of years, I would make sure he got over there in the parade,” she said. “One year we had that tractor with a hay wagon, and I took my truck.”
This year, the tractor isn’t working, but John won’t be left out of the fun. 

“He is Mr. Parade,” Blossom said, so instead, he’ll be waving to the crowds while driving a Packers-themed golf cart. 

For the Blossoms, the parade is not just an excuse outside of the football season to show off their Packers pride or enjoy a fun morning driving their vehicles. It’s about sharing and connecting with something timeless.
Said Blossom, “What I like about a small-town parade is that it’s nothing glitzy, and yet it has everything that grabs at your heart.”

One reason why we love July Fourth parades is the traditions they help create. The writer’s son, Jack Lancaster – seen here perched on the shoulders of his father, John Lancaster – is part of the family’s fourth generation to enjoy the Independence Day festivities on Washington Island. Photo by Sara Rae Lancaster.

It really does. 

I’m reminded of watching my son last summer, not quite two, sitting high on his daddy’s shoulders as fire trucks and children on bicycles rolled past him down Washington Island’s Main Road. The wonder in his eyes not only grabbed at my heart, but it’s a memory I’ll carry forever. And all because of something as simple as the small-town parade.