CEDARVILLE – Monday’s CedarFest parade carried the theme of “Proud to be an American.” For several festival goers, small-town community is the root of their American pride.
“I think we might be prouder to be an American in a small town than people in a large town, because we’re closer to the people,” said Mark Thordsen, a 47-year member of the Cedarville Township Volunteer Fire Department. “Out here in the farm we’re kind of closer to America.”
In Greene County, American pride may mean thanking a veteran, Xenia resident Sandi Garner said. She spoke of a recent Xenia High School football game, during which a high school student approached a veteran a few rows ahead of Garner and thanked him.
“It was so touching, and he just teared up,” Garner said. “So it’s just little things like that.”
For Xenia resident Dale Harner, American pride means reflecting on the country’s early years.
“All the people that’s come before us to make this the greatest country in the world,” he said. “Because of them making it great, we’re spoiled.”
But small towns like Cedarville are the best representation of the country’s beginnings, Cedarville township resident Bob Kinney said.
“I think small town America represents the values of America,” he said. “I think that big cities are very populated, but I think it’s towns and communities like this that make up America.”
Area residents and college students flocked to the village to celebrate Labor Day weekend with fireworks and pancakes – perhaps the most popular activities of Cedarville’s annual Labor Day festival.
“In small towns you have to hold onto whatever makes you unique,” said Alexis Ancona, a Cedarville University student from a small town in Maine.
And for Cedarville, that’s Labor Day, especially since one of its own — James Kyle — had a hand in the formation of the holiday. While representing South Dakota as a U.S. Senator, Kyle was one of the main sponsors of a bill to create Labor Day.
Sunday night’s fireworks show boomed and so did the annual pancake breakfast at the fire station. Before 8:30 a.m. Monday, 2,000 people had stopped by the breakfast, held Saturday and Monday until 1 p.m.
“It really helps the fire department, because it’s our only fundraiser event of the entire year,” said Sarah Garrison, who has served with the fire department for four years. “It’s a huge blessing to us to have so many supporters come out and help us out.”
Kinney said he attends the breakfast to support the fire department and to enjoy the sense of community established by the breakfast. But more so, he said, it’s about tradition – one he’s continued since 1984.
For Harner, CedarFest is also about tradition. Harner said he has come to the fireworks show for the past 10 or 12 years but has family ties to the village that date back much longer. One uncle owned a feed mill, another owned a grocery.
“It’s just good to see this little village have a celebration,” he said.
But Ancona, a college senior, said the celebration the little village puts on is neither small nor ordinary – and just a temporary tradition for her.
“This is my last chance to see the Cedarville fireworks for Labor Day,” she said, “and where else is Labor Day such a big deal?”
Anna Dembowski is a freelance writer for the Gazette.