A FARM FOURTH
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.”