A Fourth of July has passed without the big town celebration in Belle Plaine. It was all for good reasons to not risk holding the celebration.
For years, it was an event that used to draw in Cedar Rapids people, until Cedar Rapids decided they could hold something like this. But it wasn’t like this. In Belle Plaine, people step up and volunteer to make sure the residents and visitors have a fun time.
Walt Kollmorgen was as organizer for the 5K event in the morning. And he kicked my rear, figuratively. And literally. The parade was an event that passed by our old office. I’d take a few pix, and Dad would be on the video camera, shuttling tapes out to the cable tower. He was one of the first to try this.
Eventually, I became involved in the parade, playing in the local Legion Czech Band with a fun crew that taught me to play with confidence while also listening. As the Legion band faded, we shifted to helping with the Shriner Band, usually sight-reading whatever was placed before us. We enjoyed the route in both bands. Sometimes it ended where my grandmother lived. We knew people would be watching along the way.
Then I was there just to get a few pix.
The afternoon would be loaded with activities for young and old. Bingo, rides, games, snow cones and funnel cakes. In the center of it all is a beer tent, which actually is a tree. The beer tree. Like the parade route, people gathered in the same areas with the same groups, most often having the same conversations they have every year. Just to see friends and classmates was a sign that yes, we’d made it through another year. And we haven’t changed that much.
For one afternoon, it is the best tree in Benton County.
I missed the tree this year. I hope the tree is still standing next year, because I’ll be there, bouncing from one group of friends and classmates to another group. And making new friends.
That’s what keeps the small-town, old-fashioned celebration going. The people. We’re still here, just not at the tree. But in our minds, we are.