In Utah, parade season is in full bloom. Pioneer Day, Strawberry Days, Onion Days, Pony Express Days, Lamb Days, insert small town name-Days bring together locals, those with local ties who no longer reside in the area, and out of town visitors. These are a time that bring everyone together, reestablish old ties, and remind me of everything I love about American communities. My hometown of Kanosh still boasts a robust parade with the floats either sponsored by an LDS ward subgroup (primary, scouts, young women, etc.), or being comprised of livestock (horses of various sizes, mules, goats, etc.). Other livestock is available for adoption (pending your ability to capture it among many other running people in an enclosed area of the park). Lubricants of all kinds are important as greased money poles, greased pigs, hair grease for the few men still clinging to the 50’s, and something that emits large black clouds of smoke from the old time tractors either in the parade or at the kid rides. Games, music, dances, and other social events fill in the gaps between the most important events… eating. There is competitive eating, creative eating, and lots of over eating. The best ticket into these events is your name. Standard pioneer stock names of the town guarantee lifetime membership in the town. If you’re a “move in”, the title doesn’t ever expire, even if you’ve lived in the town your whole life. Some ecclesiastical callings (ie. Bishop or scoutmaster) may expedite class distinction changes from import to native, as will any Scandinavian suffix on your last name or obviously accepted names like Smith, Young, or Hinckley that are like a social acceptance fast pass in Mormondom.
Most common topics of discussion, whether in a reconnection conversation or just fitting in, will focus on number of kids, height of said kids, athletic prowess of said kids, and comparable family size to the chief progenitor of that age (generally who started their brood during the high school days under slightly scandalous conditions that resulted in one less mission-worthy representative of the community). However, to be a family size measuring stick, these individuals have overcome their “rough times” and are serving in some capacity shepherding youth away from the wiles of sin in the community today, and generally are well respected bastions of strength in the area. Other topics include weather, politics, who is ill, state of their garden, and prices of agricultural commodities. Regardless though of the topic, interest is genuine, welcoming is sincere, and memories run long as stories about ones youthful days, and youthful days of parents are shared.
Last year for the first time in the Kanosh town celebration, the city council usurped authority to provide the free town celebration lunch from the local ward. The lines are quite blurred between the two most times, and it was still a nice event. However, I was sad to see the shift that resulted when service became governed and formalized. Absent were several “family recipes” that had proudly been shared for decades, replaced with packaged items imported from Walmart or Costco. Still, all were welcomed with no questions asked or criteria to be met. The feeling of community was strong, and evidence of faith and patriotism were strong through prayers, messages, and speeches. Minus some horse races, rodeo events, and boxing matches between little kids (of which I was never a fan, especially as a participant), these town celebrations have been the same for decades. It makes me proud of my heritage, and teaches in a profound way to my children the formula of a true community. While amenities near urban centers are nice, I’ll forever appreciate and be proud of my roots in these small towns of Utah.