7 Weird, Offbeat Fourth of July Parades

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Eating hot dogs, wearing patriotic clothing, and watching fireworks may be the quintessential Fourth of July experience, but some Americans celebrate Independence Day in zanier, more atypical ways. From a boom box parade to a pet parade, these seven offbeat, eccentric Fourth of July parades might make you reconsider how you spend the Fourth.

1. WILI BOOM BOX PARADE // WILLIMANTIC, CONNECTICUT

For the past 30 years, Willimantic, Connecticut has hosted an annual Boom Box Parade on July 4. Why boom boxes? Well, it was a matter of necessity: In 1986, no marching bands were available to perform in a Memorial Day parade, so the town had to get creative. Willimantic resident Kathleen Clark suggested that the local radio station, WILI, play marching band music while parade participants carry boom box radios tuned to WILI. Since the town’s first boom box parade—which happened on the Fourth of July rather than Memorial Day—thousands of people have celebrated Independence Day by wearing red, white, and blue and carrying a radio tuned to WILI.

2. PEACHTREE ROAD RACE // ATLANTA, GEORGIA

Rather than watch parade participants march or stand on a float, some Atlantans spend their Fourth of July morning watching 60,000 people run a 10k race. Started in 1970, the Peachtree Road Race is the largest 10k in the world. One hundred and fifty thousand spectators camp out around different spots of the race to watch and encourage the runners. And everyone celebrates both the Fourth of July and the end of the race at Atlanta’s Piedmont Park.

3. MURRELLS INLET BOAT PARADE // MURRELLS INLET, SOUTH CAROLINA

Since 1984, residents of Murrells Inlet, South Carolina have celebrated Independence Day with a Boat Parade. Thousands of people gather to watch the boats (which are decorated with patriotic colors), eat food, and wait for the fireworks display. It costs just $5 to enter your boat in the parade, and the best-decorated boats get a prize. Due to high tide safety concerns, this year’s Fourth of July Boat Parade will be held, for the first time ever, on Saturday, July 2 instead.

4. PET PARADE // BEND, OREGON

If you’re an animal lover, you’ll probably love Bend, Oregon’s Fourth of July Pet Parade. Since the 1930s, kids and their pets have participated in this parade, which has included everything from horses, dogs, and goats to badgers, chickens, and baby coyotes. Some kids wear costumes and bring stuffed animals in lieu of a real animal, and there are water pools and shaded areas to make sure that the animals don’t overheat. More than 8000 people watch and participate in the annual Pet Parade.

5. MIDNIGHT PARADE // GATLINBURG, TENNESSEE

Because their parade begins at midnight, Gatlinburg, Tennessee boasts the “First Independence Day Parade In The Nation.” The Midnight Parade has occurred for over 40 years and despite its start time, attracts 80,000 spectators. The parade itself features marching bands and floats, and the spectators are seriously enthusiastic—some people camp out on the sidewalk the morning of July 3 to get a good spot.

6. KIDS’ PARADE // WEST SEATTLE, WASHINGTON

At the West Seattle Fourth of July Kids Parade, you won’t see big floats and bombastic marching bands. Instead, kids walk, ride scooters, or bike along the route, while parents push younger kids in strollers or wagons. Hundreds of families in West Seattle’s North Admiral neighborhood participate, and some kids decorate their bikes and wagons with red, white, and blue. After the parade, families can picnic and enter wheelbarrow and three-legged races at Hamilton Viewpoint Park.

7. WORLD’S SHORTEST PARADE // APTOS, CALIFORNIA

In Aptos, California, a town about 40 miles south of San Jose, you’ll find the World’s Shortest Parade, which spans a whopping two city blocks. Following a pancake breakfast, the 0.6-mile parade begins at 10 a.m. and features antique cars, floats under 13 feet high, bicyclists, walkers, music, and decorated trucks. After the parade, celebrators head to a Party in the Park to eat, play games, and celebrate Independence Day at Aptos Village Park.

The Kansas Shoe Salesman Responsible for Veterans Day

Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The reason we celebrate Veterans Day on November 11th dates back to 1918, when an armistice between the Allies and Germany was signed that essentially ended World War I. The first Armistice Day was celebrated the following November 11th.

World War I was billed as the war to end all wars, but of course it didn't. So by the 1950s, with so many American men and women veterans of World War II and the conflict in Korea, some thought the term "Armistice Day" was outdated.

A new day

There's a shoe salesman from Emporia, Kansas, who probably isn't in many history books, but he deserves at least a paragraph. In the early 1950s, a gentleman by the name of Alvin King thought Armistice Day was too limiting. He had lost family in World War II, and thought all American veterans of all wars should be honored on November 11th. So he formed a committee, and in 1953 the city of Emporia, Kansas, celebrated Veterans Day.

Ed Rees, Emporia's local congressman, loved the idea and took it to Washington. President Eisenhower liked King's idea, too. In 1954, Eisenhower formally changed November 11th to Veterans Day and invited some of Emporia's residents to be there when he signed the bill. King was one of those invited, but there was one problem: he didn't own a nice suit. His veteran friends chipped in and bought him a proper suit and paid his way from Kansas to the White House.

In 2003, Congress passed a resolution declaring Emporia, Kansas to be the founding city of Veterans Day.

This post originally appeared in 2011.

6 Tasty Facts About Scrapple

Kate Hopkins, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Kate Hopkins, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Love it or hate it, scrapple is a way of life—especially if you grew up in Pennsylvania or another Mid-Atlantic state like New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, or Virginia. And this (typically) pork-filled pudding isn’t going anywhere. While its popularity in America dates back more than 150 years, the dish itself is believed to have originated in pre-Roman times. In celebration of National Scrapple Day, here’s everything you ever—or never—wanted to know about the dish.

1. Scrapple is typically made of pig parts. Lots and lots of pig parts.

Though every scrapple manufacturer has its own particular recipe, it all boils down to the same basic process—literally: boiling up a bunch of pig scraps (yes, the parts you don’t want to know are in there) to create a stock which is then mixed with cornmeal, flour, and a handful of spices to create a slurry. Once the consistency is right, chopped pig parts are added in and the mixture is turned into a loaf and baked.

As the dish has gained popularity, chefs have put their own unique spins on it, adding in different meats and spices to play with the flavor. New York City’s Ivan Ramen even cooked it up waffle-style.

2. People were eating scrapple long before it made its way to America.

People often think that the word scrapple derives from scraps, and it’s easy to understand why. But it’s actually an Americanized derivation of panhaskröppel, a German word meaning "slice of rabbit." Much like its modern-day counterpart, skröppel—which dates back to pre-Roman times—was a dish that was designed to make use of every part of its protein (in this case, a rabbit). It was brought to America in the 17th and 18th centuries by German colonists who settled in the Philadelphia area.

In 1863, the first mass-produced version of scrapple arrived via Habbersett, which is still making the product today. They haven’t tweaked the recipe much in the past 150-plus years, though they do offer a beef version as well.

3. If your scrapple is gray, you're a-ok.

A dull gray isn’t normally the most appetizing color you’d want in a meat product, but that’s the color a proper piece of scrapple should be. (It is typically pork bits, after all.)

4. Scrapple can be topped with all kinds of goodies.

Though there’s no rule that says you can’t enjoy a delicious piece of scrapple at any time of day, it’s considered a breakfast meat. As such, it’s often served with (or over) eggs but can be topped with all sorts of condiments; while some people stick with ketchup or jelly, others go wild with applesauce, mustard, maple syrup, and honey to make the most of the sweet-and-salty flavor combo. There’s also nothing wrong with being a scrapple purist and eating it as is.

5. Dogfish Head made a scrapple beer.

The master brewers at Delaware’s Dogfish Head have never been afraid to get experimental with their flavors. In 2014, they created a Beer for Breakfast Stout that was brewed with Rapa pork scrapple. A representative for the scrapple brand called the collaboration a "unique proposition." Indeed.

6. Delaware holds an annual scrapple festival each October.

Speaking of Delaware: It’s also home to the country’s oldest—and largest—annual scrapple festival. Originating in 1992, the Apple Scrapple Festival in Bridgeville, Delaware is a yearly celebration of all things pig parts, which includes events like a ladies skillet toss and a scrapple chunkin’ contest. More than 25,000 attendees make the trek annually.

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