Summers in small town America are full of celebrations. There are street dances, rodeos, parades, reunion picnics in the park, golf scrambles, back porch parties, bon fires and fiddling jamborees.
Because there is much to celebrate in the summer, being able to stand outside without getting frost bite is one of them, but the most important is community. That’s the point of it all.
This year on this side of North Dakota many small towns are throwing a celebration of celebrations in recognition of 100 years of pulling together and living and growing, struggling and thriving together.
The big one.
My hometown of Watford City is one of those communities and this week is the week we put up the tent, pull in the stages, set up the bouncy houses for the kids, buy our friends drinks and take a few days to recognize and appreciate how far we’ve come.
The forecast looks good and I can’t wait see people enjoying the party we’ve been planning for over two years. A party that’s 100 years in the making…
As a musician in this area, I’ve had and will have the privilege of entertaining at a few of these celebrations throughout the summer. It’s one of my favorite things about what I do, coming in as a guest in these communities, in these small towns along back highways, standing before them telling my story while I get to witness theirs.
I get to see them all out there, together, eating pulled pork or roast beef on a bun, commenting on the tough decision they had to make on which homemade bar to choose, sipping lemonade and talking about grandkids, or the weather, or the big football play in 1979 or that time they snuck out of school to drink whiskey and go fishing at the river…
There’s something nostalgic about a small town celebration in the middle of summer, in the middle of an old main street. And it’s not that they’re all the same or that they’re a simple undertaking. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s in the unique details that come together to showcase a place and what’s important to the people who’ve made it.
It’s in the town’s cowboy marching band or the 4-H kids serving coffee and lemonade and that wave of relief you feel sipping from styrofoam cups knowing that they still make kids like this out here.
It’s in the Cattle Women serving up beef on a bun and their famous potato salad. It’s in the hometown gymnastics club tumbling down the sidewalk and worrisome but proud moms with arms full of candy and frisbees their children picked up at the parade.
And it’s the parade, the Heritage Club’s team of horses and the man who drives that fine looking team every year.
It’s the way the grass is cut just right in the park before the celebration by the man who has taken his job seriously for twenty years. It’s the “boy this place looks nice” and “What a beautiful day” echoing off the thoughtfully planted trees.
It’s the kids running around coated in bug spray and dirt chasing each other up and down the street without a care because someone’s watching them…we all know who their parents are…
Last week Pops and I loaded up our guitars and headed to the southern border of North and South Dakota to help the two states celebrate 125 years of being states…I wrote about it in this week’s column, I wrote about the smell of the fresh cut clover wafting through the open doors of the Armory, I wrote about the high school choir singing the South Dakota song, the crowd sitting around tables carefully covered in colorful cloths, fanning the humidity off of their skin while the kids played Red Light/Green Light out back on the lawn and the sun went down and a storm brewed in the thunderheads on the horizon…
I wrote about it all here…
Coming Home: Time is relative in summer
by Jessie Veeder
And this week Watford City will celebrate our booming town with a festival featuring all the small town trimmings, complete with parade, street dance, craft show, magicians, reunions, clowns and free supper under a big tent. I’ll put on my sunscreen and practical shoes and run around making sure everything is going just right, hoping that the wind stays down…talking about the weather…
Talking about time and how summers here just don’t last long enough…
You can find my columns weekly in the Fargo Forum (Sundays), Dickinson Pressand the Grand Forks Herald. All columns are reposted on this blog.