I have been to my fair share of 4th of July parades in my time. I am certainly accustomed to the patriotic marching bands, the little kids on their bikes, and even the occasional political figure here and there. There is absolutely nothing wrong with these parades. I actually love them. There is a certain quintessential patriotism to these events that I love. It’s one of those days where we all get along and celebrate this country.
All of that said, as a child the majority of the parades I witnessed were far from the “norm.” You may or may not know that our family spent most of our summers over on Madeline Island. It was there that my sister and I learned how the “islanders” celebrate the Fourth. The Madeline Island Independence Day parade is a sight to see and an event not to be missed. It’s silly. It’s outlandish. It’s political. Yet, with all of those descriptions, it is also quintessential Americana. At this parade you will see floats such as the Wood Ticks float, the Royal Family Wedding party (not really, of course!), and the Emerald Ash Borer telling everyone not to move their firewood. These wonderful floats in addition to the Islands musicians, restaurants and businesses getting their well deserved attention. The best part to me is when the Island’s veterans float comes down the street. Without fail, these men (as of now, it’s just men) get the loudest cheer. You’ll see men, women and children waving their American flags, and even a few of them saluting from the side of the road. This is that sense of Americana I referred to.
After the parade the community and many more gather on the lawn outside of the Madeline Island Museum. Patriotic songs are sung, speeches are made and even a few jokes are told. As corny as it may sound, it simply is a joyous time. I dare anyone to experience these events and not have a smile on their face.
There is of course my personal favorite part of these events. Getting there. The parade starts at 10:30 sharp(ish), so you need to be sure you catch one of the Madeline Island Ferries early enough to get over there and find a place to see the goings on. One must go through the sometimes arduous process of finding a place to leave their car in Bayfield before getting in the long line of folks waiting to get aboard. Once aboard you’ll quickly see that there are far more people then there are cars, and it feels like a bit of a party. Everyone is excited to see what unique floats there will be this year. Many will reminisce about the goofiness they saw the year before. Then on the ride back, you’ll hear many of the same conversations, yet everyone is speaking a bit louder simply out of excitement!
As you can see it’s one of those experiences that is hard to put into words. I guess you’ll just have to come to Bayfield and experience it yourself. We’d love to see you!