by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune
---- — Cass County was alive with festivities Thursday through an itinerary of fireworks, parades, music, swimming and more as the area celebrated the nation’s Independence Day.
Like many others, Logansport resident Tina Mehrle got together with family and friends at Riverside Park to mark the holiday. She could be found among a group of more than 20 who lounged on lawn chairs and picnic tables awaiting the fireworks to be displayed later in the evening.
“The freedom to be with friends and family,” she said when asked what the Fourth of July meant to her, as burgers, brats and chicken breasts sizzled on a grill nearby.
Official National Weather Service readings at the Logansport/Cass County Airport registered in the mid-70s after noon and skies remained slightly cloudy. It was far different from the sunny, 100-degree day in 2012.
But it didn’t faze children embarking on the wet bounce house at Riverside Park, one of several child-oriented activities set up for the afternoon.
“After the last two years of heat, heat, heat, we felt we needed something wet for people,” said Janet Fawley, administrator of the Logansport Parks and Recreation Department. The wet bounce house was added to a dry bounce house and several staples at the park — carousel and train rides, miniature golf and the annual garage sale. Visitors came in a fairly steady flow into midafternoon, Fawley said shortly after 3 p.m. Thursday.
At Tower Park, some 344 people had been admitted as of 2:38 p.m. for the pool’s free admission day, according to pool staff. The pool drew more than 700 during last year’s heat wave.
“This year we were expecting just as many,” said assistant pool manager Stacy Farrer. “It’s really up to the weather, but so far it’s been good.”
In Walton, a stream of cars, floats, tractors and more flowed through Main Street Thursday afternoon for the town’s annual Fourth of July parade.
“Everyone gets excited about the Fourth here,” said Danah Collins, relaxing in a lawn chair on her front lawn moments before the parade began making its way in front of her home.
Her daughter, Ashlin, sat beside her, eagerly awaiting the handfuls of candy that would be tossed her way during the parade.
Gerry Good, who grew up in Walton and now lives in Kokomo, said he returns to him hometown often for the parade.
“Being from here and moving away, it’s nice to come back to your roots,” he said.
Good also said parades like the one in Walton are rare and worth visiting.
“You don’t see it everywhere,” he continued. “I live in Kokomo and I have to come all the way to Walton for a parade.”
Natalie Gotshall, from outside of Logansport, said she has been coming to the Fourth of July parade in Walton every year she can.
“It’s important to celebrate,” she said, adding that she enjoys seeing her son, a firefighter with the Cass County Fire District, in the parade.
For Gotshall, along with many of the people lined along the boulevard awaiting the parade, the event was a time to spend with family.
“I got my granddaughter and my great-granddaughter with me,” she said. “We’re carrying on the tradition.”
For Walton resident Carla Thomas, the holiday was especially important this year, she said, as her husband is currently stationed in the Middle East with the U.S. Air Force Reserve.
“I come every year,” she said of the parade. “It’s a small town, so you know everyone and you know everyone in the parade.”
Alicia Cunningham, Walton, said she enjoyed the parade because it maintains a strong bond throughout the community.
“It brings us all together for our common enjoyment,” she said.
Cunningham also praised the parade for its child-friendly atmosphere.
“They make sure the kids enjoy it,” she said. “It seems to be their biggest priority.”
Cunningham’s daughter, Zabrena, said her favorite part was the horse that was in the parade and her son, Osten, was quite fond of the tractors that rolled by their front yard.
Terri McKinney echoed Cunningham’s comments about the parade being a way to strengthen bonds throughout the community. After moving to Walton three years ago, she said events like this help her get to know people in town.
“I’m enjoying all the festivities in town,” she said. “I’m not too well known, but I’m starting to get to know new people. Everyone seems really friendly.”
Community ties in Walton were something noticed by outsiders as well.
Nancy Newell, Kokomo, could be found in Walton after the parade Thursday at the stand she runs with her daughters called Ladies in Thread, where they sell their hand-crafted jewelry, knit caps, sandals, blankets, magnets and more at various events throughout the area. It was one of several stands that lined Depot Street Thursday afternoon.
“I just love the people,” Newell said. “They’re really nice and friendly. We enjoy doing crafts but we enjoy the people just as much as anything else.”
Further down on Depot Street, a car show was in full swing.
Steve Estep, of Wabash, visited with people who walked over to see his sapphire blue 1954 Studebaker Champion, which he said he takes to car shows about one to two times a week. Like so many others had said, getting together with people in the community was one of his favorite parts of the holiday.
“I love it,” he said. “Mostly just to talk to the people. I enjoy that.”
Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org. News Editor Sarah Einselen contributed to this report.