Pratt County celebrates 2021 Fourth of July in style with flags, fireworks and big band music
From a first-ever Fourth of July parade in Iuka to the annual fireworks display at Pratt County Veterans Memorial Lake, and at many smaller gatherings of friends and families, the sights and sounds of freedom were signs of celebration this past weekend in Pratt County.
On Saturday morning, July 3, there weren't many spectators at the Iuka parade, but that was only because almost everyone in town was in the parade. More than a dozen kids on red, white and blue decorated bicycles lined up at the starting point by the Kanza Cooperative offices at 102 N. Main Street, with other community members assembling behind them.
April Hemphill from the Pratt Area Humane Society was there with her large dog, Dozer, decked out in blue fairy wings. A wide variety of golf carts, all decorated with flying American flags and various other holiday trimmings lined up, carrying individuals of note, including one with the "Most Established Iukan" vintage 1934. Two tractors, a few pickups - one pulling a boat, and an orange jeep carrying Nathan and Laura Hemphill and company, were accompanied by two Iuka firetrucks that sounded all the bells and whistles needed for a good parade.
After a few rounds around town, the parade troupers and community members met at the Old School Cafe for free hot dogs and ice cream sundaes.
"We are so proud of our small community," said City of Iuka Mayor Marsha Giggy. "This was our pride parade. God bless America."
American flags were waving down the City Pratt's Main Street and at the Pratt County Veterans Memorial Lake all weekend, but the celebrative atmostphere gained intensity on Saturday, July 3 where all piers were packed and camping spots were filled as many took time-out to celebrate the freedoms enjoyed because of military sacrifice in the United States of America. Patriotic big band sounds filled the air at the lake on Saturday evening as the 35th Division Army National Guard Band from Ft. Leavenworth presented their first concert of the season.
"They asked if they could come out and be part of our Fourth of July celebration," said George Stevens, Pratt American Legion Post 86 organizer for the event. "We've had them at the municipal building before and they are very good."
The 35th Division Band was unable to play in public venues last year, but opened their concert season this year at Pratt and will be giving patriotic community concerts throughout Kansas during the month of July. Band leaders paid tribute to state and national leadership as well as promoted COVID-19 vaccinations for all, which has made their ability to perform possible.
After the band music, it was time for fireworks at the lake, and the American Legion show was explosive.
"We didn't have any trouble getting our fireworks this year," Stevens said. "We ordered everything back in February. In fact, we may have had more this year than ever before."
Stevens said the fireworks show cost an average of $10,500 each year, financed in part by the City of Pratt ($3,500), Pratt County ($3,500) and the rest by the American Legion by way of private donors.
"This year we asked everyone to donate as they came into the area," Stevens said. "Every donation, no matter how big or small, goes towards purchasing fireworks for the next year. The more money we get, the more fireworks we can purchase. We depend on everyone who enjoys this show to participate by giving to support the next year."
Stevens said additional donations were always accepted at the American Legion Post 86, 601 E. Third Street, Pratt, at any time.
Additional community fireworks shows were held at Park Hills Country Club in Pratt and at Elm Mills south into Barber County over the weekend to further celebration the Fourth of July holiday.