Written by Grace Wride and Bailee Merrill
On July 3 at 9 a.m., people dressed in red, white and blue gathered early to listen to the Madison Summer Band play patriotic-themed songs before the flag raising at Veterans Memorial in Smith Park.
After the band’s performance, Bob Jones, previous Idaho state commander with the Veterans of Foreign Wars, stood to speak about the birth of Independence Day and the blessing of freedom.
“With a scratch of a pen in Philadelphia on July fourth, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed,” Jones said. “Yes, it was there that the Declaration held freedom as an inalienable right and that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness should be attained and available to all Americans.”
After he spoke, a small group of children sang “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood. They used hand motions to illustrate the lyrics, such as saluting as they sang, “I won’t forget the men who died who gave that right to me.”
Veterans of Foreign Wars members then unraveled the American flag as the crowd silently watched with hands over their hearts. Once it reached the top, the congregation recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
Afterwards, Jones said a few more words to the crowd.
“Yes, July fourth is a day of celebration, a holiday filled with parades, picnics and fireworks,” Jones said. “However, as we leave here today let us not forget to offer America’s patriots, past and present, a silent thank you for what they have done and continue to do that we may all remain free.”
Shortly after the flag raising ceremony finished, Rexburg’s Fourth of July parade began. The line started off with Veterans of Foreign Wars members hoisting the American and Idaho flags. Sister missionaries trailed close behind as they carried the flags proclaiming the sponsors of the parade and its theme: Crown thy good with brotherhood.
Dozens of parade participants tossed candy, toys and Otter Pops to the crowd. Children scurried to pick up all they could carry while waving at the street performers.
Some participants simply waved from decked-out vehicles — ranging from firetrucks to impressive junkyard cars — while others showcased their talents from the backs of trucks doing flips or playing musical instruments.
“It’s so much better than any other parade,” said Sarah Henderson, a Rexburg resident. “There’s floats and dancing, and the Ray’s car wash is my all-time favorite. I was waiting for them. My kids don’t like the creepy Halloween thing, the tractors are a little loud, but it’s just small-town vibes fun … I think everyone knows someone in the parade which is cool.”
By the end of the parade, residents and college students had enjoyed over an hour and a half of floats, candy and performances.
Day in the park
After the parade, the Independence Day festivities continued at Porter Park. Booths filled the grass and people milled about seeing what each group offered. A small train snaked around trees, tugging children along for a mini adventure. A mechanical bull and petting zoo also contributed to the day’s celebration.
The largest animal of the petting zoo, hosted by 4-H, was a heffer named Hannah. Young children gathered around her offering her grass. Lydia Oliphant, a resident of Rexburg and sophomore in high school, won the cow through the Rocky Mountain Dexter Breeder Association and now she takes her to a variety of events.
“It always does make me kind of happy, seeing her out there with all the little kids,” Oliphant said.
People played games, watched performances at the Beehive Pavilion and ate food from food trucks and booths from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Fireworks were lit from several locations, but the city of Rexburg asked that residents view them from home rather than coming to the sites. Multiple students and families chose to watch from the hill next to the Rexburg temple.
Emely Hernandez, a sophomore studying elementary education, and Chelsee Nicholson, a sophomore majoring in general studies, sat on a blanket near the temple to watch the show. They shared their thoughts on Independence Day and the firework tradition.
Nicholson mentioned listening to a member of the army talk about his feelings about July Fourth.
“It was really cool to see what this day meant to him and about how we need to actually remember the purpose of this day,” Nicholson said.
Hernandez said it’s a great opportunity to spend time with family and friends. Both students shared how they enjoy watching fireworks, as well.
“The idea of seeing something sparkle in the sky, it just makes us happy,” Nicholson said with a smile.