Farm & Ranch Living - - THE WAY WE LIVE -

MARK AND JERI MUELLER like to stretch their In­de­pen­dence Day cel­e­bra­tion from the fam­ily farm to nearby Shell Rock, Iowa, pop­u­la­tion 1,296. For more than 15 years, they’ve kicked off the hol­i­day by invit­ing friends and fam­ily over on July 3 to sam­ple craft beers and eat cake on the porch. At 9:45 p.m. ev­ery­one jumps on the hayrack (pulled by a 1953 John Deere 70 trac­tor) and rides to a nearby hill­top to watch the Shell Rock fire­works. The past year was spe­cial, though, be­cause more than pretty py­rotech­nics ex­ploded over the ru­ral land­scape.

“Heat light­ning lit up the western sky, while a half-moon il­lu­mi­nated the corn­fields be­low us,” Mark says. “We all en­joyed both man’s and na­ture’s dis­plays.”

On July Fourth, it’s off to Shell Rock for the town cel­e­bra­tion, which in­cludes car­ni­val rides, food ven­dors, a beer tent and the an­nual pa­rade. “It’s a big so­cial event,” Mark says.

Ev­ery fire de­part­ment within 20 miles, plus an­tique trac­tor own­ers, area busi­nesses and politi­cians take part in the pa­rade. Scout troops march by. The lo­cal FFA chap­ter in­tro­duces its teacher. Princesses and queens from the dairy, pork and beef as­so­ci­a­tions wave to the crowd. Lo­cal dance teams, gym­nasts and groups of guys op­er­at­ing ra­dio-con­trolled cars and drones dis­play their skills. The Greater Waverly Mu­nic­i­pal Band—35 mu­si­cians rid­ing on a flatbed semi—pro­vides a rous­ing mix of pa­tri­otic marches. Mark plays the trom­bone.

“Shell Rock’s pa­rade shows the unique spirit of small towns,” Mark says. “Ev­ery­one watch­ing the pa­rade knows ev­ery­one in the pa­rade.”

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