Hesperia, Michigan, is a village of about 1,000 with the gall to call itself "The Hub of Vacationland." It celebrates Independence Day a little more enthusiastically than many towns across the country -- with a three-day downtown gathering and parade that highlights a little of what this rural community is all about.
Sponsored by the Hesperia Chamber of Commerce, the parade is the middle anchor of an event that occurs every year from the early morning of July 2, through the parade at 1 p.m. July 4, until nightfall and fireworks on the Fourth of July. Officially called the 4th of July Family Fun Fest, it is a packed weekend of activities on Olive Street downtown, with live music and a beer tent on tap every day. The "Midway" area will keep the children busy with crafts and activities.
The July 4 parade is preceded by two full days of activities on July 2 and 3. Typically, the first day begins with several morning races for a range of athletes: a 5K or 10K run, a 5K Walk or the 800-meter "Panther Prowl." The races start at various times throughout the morning. A co-ed softball tournament starts in the morning on the fields of both the Hesperia American Legion Hall and at White River Dam. Then mid-day on Main Street, a Native American jam session kicks off the downtown festivities. The beer tent and DJ Dan Dipple open around 6 p.m. at the Weaver Park Pavilion and keep going until around midnight.
Hesperia's Fourth of July festivities are contained to Weaver Park on July 3. The day begins with a tractor pull, then eases into noon bingo at the park's kitchen area. The beer tent opens shortly thereafter, as does a Texas Hold 'Em poker square off. Once the tournament is out of the way around nightfall, a DJ returns in an attempt to keep everyone dancing until midnight.
The early afternoon parade on July 4 is the anchor of Hesperia's 4th of July Family Fun Fest, a rolling reel of what Hesperia is made of. From safety forces and school bands to village officials and pageant princesses, the line-up occurs in the school parking lot and eventually winds its way to the Weaver Park Pavilion. The parade is preceded by a morning art fair in Webster Park, as well as pony rides, remote control car races on Elm Street and pedal pulls on Main Street. After the parade arrives at the pavilion, activities such as an inflatable midway for children, a duck race and a horse pull keep attendees occupied until dinner. This all leads to a downtown dance in the evening and fireworks that start just after sunset.
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