creative consulting for the art of life by Jason Jenn

creative consulting for the art of life by Jason Jenn

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Simple Little Pleasures: Sharon Center, Iowa & "The Littlest Parade"

We live in a world where certain things naturally tend to evolve towards advancements and growth. Bigger and bolder is better…right?  We like to think that progress means improvement, but we must recognize that isn’t always the case. Sometimes simple is far more grand.

I was reminded of that fact quite clearly during my 4th of July experience. I traveled from Los Angeles (the biggest city within the biggest state in America — which is undergoing big budget debt problem) to spend the summer in Iowa (a relatively small state with a big budget surplus). My mission was to volunteer for part of the time on an organic farm, which is by all accounts a rather small scale operation, compared to the big agricultural operations surrounding it. But that juxtaposition is another story…

I arrived a few days before the fourth, and was urged to attend a parade that my cousin Mike and his father Roger helped create with some friends in 2002. It takes place in a very small town out in the middle of the countryside, called Sharon Center. The parade started out as a bit of a joke between a few farmers. While the “bigger” towns and cities had developed lengthy parades, they thought it would be funny to put together one of their own. They had the idea of merely driving a few tractors along the road from one farmer’s place toward a community center about half a mile away. They thought their families could sit on lawn chairs as their audience to wave them on, and they would end the parade with a potluck lunch. Something altogether simple by design.

The nickname of this new Sharon Center Parade thus became “The Littlest Parade and the Biggest Potluck” — because they wanted to have lots and lots of food to share afterwards. They contacted a few other people from the surrounding area to see if they were interesting in joining their little endeavor, and sure enough it caught on and became something much more than a joke. It became a reason for the rural community to gather and celebrate; almost like a family reunion.

So I grabbed my mom to join me for the parade. We took out our lawn chairs and set up under a big shady oak tree next to a few other spectators. As we sat there and introduced ourselves, my mother quickly recognized some of the faces and names of people as acquaintances of her parents (once farmer’s in the area as well) and that she hadn’t seen in years. The event became a reunion for her as well and I got to recall some of my own childhood memories, back before the Internet and cell phones when there were huge family reunions for people to reconnect with each other.
Roger, parade co-founder
As promised the parade was indeed mostly farmers riding by in their tractors, some firetrucks, old cars, and low-key floats. No big spectacles, just a quaint parade like from years gone by. I contemplated the simple joy of an afternoon free from over-commercialization and big crowds that seem to have dominated the holiday. It was a truly independent venture to behold on Independence Day.

Afterwards, there was a potluck, held under a large white tent. Everyone it appeared had contributed a dish or two and everyone had their fill of delicious, mostly home-cooked food as they mingled as a community united.

As bragging rights go, it may not have been the littlest parade or the biggest potluck in the world, but it was a most splendid way to spend Independence Day and experience some of life’s simple little pleasures.

Mom (to the left of my empty chair) and other parade watchers
Very cute way to display pride for your grandchildren
Yup, a riding lawn mower flanked by kids on scooter
Indeed it does (as long as we stop killing off bees with GMOs and treat cows well)

No Iowa parade is complete without Shriners on 3-Wheelers!
My little pony
A community band
That's a classic

Patriot dogs
The line for potluck
And inside, lots of food awaits

1 comment:

  1. It's so good to see a tradition that has not been lost. I too remember going to large family reunions as a child as well. And just meeting friends and family for a potluck at the local park on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. It was such a simple pleasure :) Glad you had a chance to re-charge this summer in beautiful Iowa!