The Fourth of July in Storm Lake is a little like celebrations everywhere around the country. Fireworks. Hot dogs. A parade. Sweat. Sandal-shaped sunburns. Lots of little flags being waved by kids, attached to cars and stuck in pretty girls' hair.
And in a way, it is something else entirely.
Only in a place like Storm Lake, I imagine, could you have a group of supporters of Donald Trump's presidential campaign - the guy who is hot water for controversial statements blaming undocumented immigrants from Mexico for drugs, rape and other crime, stationed directly next to a Latino community band in the parade. And have it work somehow, peacefully.
Irony? Not really. It's a little bit of what America is supposed to be all about - a country with room for everyone to thrive, and where everyone has a right to their beliefs as long as they can be decent and civil about it.
It's hard not to go to an event like this and not fall in love with your country all over again.
I watched the parade with a little knot of people in front of Chautauqua Park - white, black, hispanic, Asian, Heinz 57, whatever - people born into wealth and comfort mixing with people who came to us from refugee camps in tumultuous parts of the world, with nothing. All shoulder to shoulder, celebrating America and what it stands for, on its birthday. There is something very lovely about that - celebrating not a race, or even a flag, really, but a sense of unity, a grand experiment that is still working.
The costumes in the Parade of Nations demonstrate pride in origins, which stretch out from Storm Lake to all over the world. I've been told that the community represents peoples of well over 30 different native languages. But my take is that no one is really celebrating the countries their ancestors came from, but how so many cultures have melded together in this country, and this community, making them something very special indeed.
I love it that you can get food in the parks from different cultures - funnel cakes and root beer floats next to crab rangoon, eggrolls, pupusas. That you can browse art from so many different genres, enjoy music and dance from different cultures. Everyone is welcomed.
It's a day when we make a point to wave and say hello to people we don't know, to smile at their gurgling babies, and it doesn't matter if we even speak the same language; a smile needs no translation.
And we are all bound together by a love for a country that treasures tolerance, individuality, diversity, dreams and hard work.
What is it the inscription on the Statue of Liberty says? "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..."
I don't know about you, but after trudging from park to park and back again Saturday, I had the tired part down pat. As for poor, by the time you got done sampling all the food, picking up the obligatory marshmallow shooter and lawn sculpture made out of a tractor seat and so on, that is quite possible too. And we've got your huddled masses - crammed together in folding lawn chairs to get a glimpse of the parade, piled on a blanket to watch fireworks, crammed into the grassy are to watch kids sink on cardboard boats.
One does not maintain dignity in such a situation, one cannot possibly be aloof or alone. Which is certainly part of the beauty of the thing. If you attended the celebration and did not meet someone new during this day, you better get to the store fast, because your deodorant must have failed miserably.
We're all yearning to breathe free. For all of our differences, we have this one central belief in common. Above all else, it makes us Americans.
On this day, we are not celebrating parades and inflatable playgrounds, rock cover bands and pork burgers. That's all just the familiar trappings of what we are really doing, which is, to put it simply, being together.
What is the Fourth of July about? It commemorates a fateful day in 1776 - a warm and humid one, we know, as Thomas Jefferson kept a daily weather log in his pocket, in addition to putting into words the Declaration of Independence that was approved by the Continental Congress that day.
"We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal..."
Our concept of "all" has perhaps changed over time, but the words still apply beautifully, as they certainly did in the parks on this latest July 4 in Storm Lake.
The pursuit of life, liberty and happiness seemed to be in full force still on Saturday, at least in the small part of the nation that we observed along the lake in the sunshine.
I read that founding father John Adams foresaw on that 1776 day that the signing should be celebrated "as a great anniversary festival..."
In a letter to his wife, Abigail, he wrote, "... It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more."
You would have gotten a charge out of the Storm Lake Star Spangled Spectacular, Mr. Adams. It's almost as if you wrote us a mission statement.