My cousin got married this weekend. The boys and I (Beth had to stay behind) left early to have some time with family and have fun.
The day of the wedding also happened to be my hometown's summer celebration, and we had time to attend many of the festivities before the wedding. It used to be called Meat Days (a great name, I know)--a celebration of the meat-producing farm community around the city and the businesses within. The county Pork Producers, Beef Producers, and Turkey Producers all grilled meat to sell at the noon-time meal. Today it is called Summerfest as a recognition of the town's Swedish heritage (though the meat producers are all still central in the food tent).
Albert City, Iowa, boasts under 800 people within the city limits. When we say "small town," we mean it. If you've got a few thousand people in your city, you're no longer small--you need to be able to name everyone who lives there to be considered small. And while we don't like the fact that the economy keeps taking people away from farms and small towns, we like small town living. I now live in a city of almost 400,000 people surrounded by another 3 million in the metro area. It is quite a different life.
My boys got to experience small-town community, though. Summerfest began with a parade (doesn't every community celebration?). It has grown quite a bit since I was young (I understand thanks to the recruiting efforts of one woman in town)--there were 30-some entries in the parade. The parade goes down three blocks of man street, turns around and comes back. The boys enjoyed this because it meant people threw candy (and other items) to them twice. And they were quite generous in what they gave. Even though it was only 30 participants, and only some of those gave out candy, the boys still had a plastic bag nearly full.
The parade was followed by a Ping Pong Ball Drop. In age range groups, children waited beside one of the buildings on Main Street where a bucket of ping pong balls was emptied up above. As they balls bounced on the street, children raced to pick them up. When I was young they were worth a nickel, with specially marked balls worth more (and after we redeemed them we would often proceed to the dime store in town to spend it all on candy or baseball cards). Now they were all worth a quarter. The boys enjoyed scrambling for ping pong balls and getting rewarded for doing so.
We went up to the park for lunch (or dinner as the noon meal is called in farming communities) for the previously mentioned choice of pork, beef or turkey sandwich with beans, chips, drink and homemade ice cream. There was also a May Pole, but we were a bit disappointed as no one knew the Små Grodorna song that is traditionally sung around it.
They boys also got to participate in a pedal pull (pedaling small tractors with a weighted pull behind them that increases in difficulty the further you go). They both did well--Anders ended up with a medal. We quick ended our time there with a dip in the pool (as the city swimming pool was free that day) before heading off to the wedding.
There were other events that weekend (a showing of the new Madagascar movie in the park--which I think was rained out, a softball tournament, the ubiquitous street dance, etc), but we enjoyed what we were able to fit in.
I don't know everyone in town anymore like I used to (and I didn't even recognize a few former schoolmates right away), but it was good to be back. And I think the boys enjoyed getting to do things they wouldn't have done in a crowd of thousands of people.