Local traditions still strong for Fourth

This week Milaca, Bock, Pease and surrounding communities have been or will be participating in time-honored traditions celebrating our nation’s independence from foreign rule.

Like most area natives, I have scores of memories from Bock Fourth of July parades and Pease fireworks.

I can recall initial Bock gatherings that included no more than a handful of tractors and a few horses. Now, the event has grown to include floats from area groups, organizations and businesses. If temperatures rise to anywhere near they were for the sweltering celebration last year, I expect to be cooled off by one of our generous neighboring fire departments. And don’t worry if you miss something — the casual and fun-loving atmosphere of this unique parade allows for a second run.

During the years, the Bock Parade has transformed from that small showing of local farmers, ranchers and townspeople to an area attraction for which folks from near and far gather to observe the nation’s birthday.

My recollection is also filled with memories of watching the Pease fireworks. Religiously, every year, our parents would take my brothers and me to watch the epic pyrotechnic displays. They’d load us up in the old wood-paneled station wagon (if that gives you an idea of how long this activity has been going strong) and drive us the 9 or 10 miles from our home in northern Milaca to the country roads where miles of cars would park to watch the spectacle.

We munchkins would pull the back seat down, pile the newly made ample space with blankets and pillows, lay down with our selected goodies and fight like heck to stay awake for the grand finale. It was one of the rare occasions we could eat in my mom’s prized grocery-getter.

Although the return trip was short, the three of us kids would inevitably fall asleep before we reached home, the sweet scent of budding clover mixed with fireworks’ sulfur and the day’s events having thoroughly exhausted us. If memory serves, we would be awakened by my older brother or father lighting off a few more combustible light displays that Dad may have smuggled over from Wisconsin.

These days, we don’t need to travel to neighboring states to find fireworks bigger than a sparkler or firecracker, and the events that keep us local have only grown.

I feel fortunate that our younger generations have the opportunity to experience these things right here in our own backyards. So many communities have cut back on holiday displays such as parades and fireworks during the past decade as economics dictate and civic leaders seem to be fewer and far between.

I applaud the towns of Bock and Pease for finding it somehow possible in their budgets and for the locals who have stepped up to keep these traditions alive, especially in times when it seemed all but possible.

As we load up the children this Fourth of July to celebrate all things USA, I’m sure I’ll be saying, “When I was a kid, we parked right here!” I’ll smile and ignore the eye rolls from the munchkins, who can’t possibly envision me as a 2-foot ankle biter giddily squealing at every purple bloom of sparks. I hope this Fourth will be just as memorable for all of you, and happy birthday, America!