by Terri Winder
Perhaps it’s still true that all roads lead to Rome, but in the days preceding the 4th of July, one could be tempted to say all roads lead to Blanding. That is when many natives who have roamed return home.
Ken Macdonald, former mayor and longtime resident, says that when people tell him they don’t know where Blanding is, he instructs them to, “Go home and look it up on a map; then pack up your family and bring them for the 4th of July—we absolutely have the greatest Independence Day celebration ever.”
When I heard him say that, I had two thoughts. The first was I need to rethink my response to the question, “Where is Blanding?”
Depending on who is asking and where I am when they ask, I usually answer either, “South of Moab” or, “We are in the Four Corners area of the United States. We can practically throw rocks from our back porch at Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.” That’s not the truth, of course, but the hyperbole is effective; they remember where Blanding is.
Presently, I suppose I could say, “In the middle of where they filmed the latest Transformer movie,” but I’m thinking I really do like Mayor Macdonald’s answer. And the reason I like it is because of my second thought, which was, “He’s right; everyone loves coming to Blanding for the 4th; but why, exactly, is that?”
I decided to ask my daughter, newly graduated from USU, why she invited her college friend and attached boyfriend to come for Independence Day. I inquired, “What did you tell Osanna, to convince her and her boyfriend to travel 400 miles—through countless major city festivities-- to come to Blanding this week?”
“I just told her it is the greatest celebration ever,” Allie answered.
“But why?” I persisted.
“Well, I like it because it’s just right; the parade is the perfect length and there’s lots of stuff to do but not so much you can’t do it all, and the fireworks are just the best. I also like it that it’s not as crowded as celebrations in the city. However, I think it’s mostly the feeling that’s here: everyone is so friendly and there’s just a strong spirit of patriotism.”
Her last comment was my first thought as to why Blanding’s celebration is the greatest one around; there truly is an indescribable feeling of camaraderie and love of country that permeates the day. However, I readily recognize that there are other exclusive aspects that make Blanding’s celebration unique. Where else is one awakened on Independence Day by the sound of a Civil War Era cannon’s repeated booms? That is just one of the fine traditions the Hurst family has bequeathed their hometown. For many years the highlight of the parade was the Hurst’s utterly delightful “The Little Train That Could,” until it simply couldn’t.
And where else do you find another favorite, from another pioneer family, the Lyman’s “Big Band” contraption: an antique truck modified to hold an entire band on elevated and downright-scary-looking platforms. Talk about the Land of the Brave; I hold my breath every time they take a corner.
Speaking of brave, where else is the fire department fearless about spraying the crowd with fire hoses? It is a highlight of the parade to watch the children run out and beg to be squirted, and then watch them as they squeal and dance in the arching spray.
That thought brings another--where else in all the world would the crowd be delighted and grateful if it rained on their parade?
Ken Macdonald and Allie (and anyone else who says it) are right: Blanding’s 4th of July celebration is the greatest celebration ever. In all actuality, it is an indisputable fact: we have the biggest celebration in the largest county in the finest country in the world. Why would anyone want to miss it?