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Another glorious 4th

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A shoutout to all the volunteers who helped put on the Star Spangled Spectacular Wednesday and Thursday.

We’ve been enjoying it for decades from our vantage point at the corner of Cayuga and Lakeshore Drive. For many years it has been a reunion stage for the Tolans far and wide, Mary’s family.

I’ve been more than a spectator. For eight years our late great sales manager Mike Diercks and I organized the Big Parade. We started months ahead of time sending invitations out to organizations we thought might be interested, and usually about 120-140 groups participated, ranging from unicylists all the way up to giant combines and semis, with dancing kids and prancing horses in between.

The morning of the parade we’d be up way too early to stake out the parking spots for the floats and pray that the rain gods would overlook us that day. We were remarkably lucky that we enjoyed beautiful weather throughout our tenure.

For several years the highlight of the parade was a flyover by National Guard jets out of Des Moines. Getting that set up was no small feat. The applications had to be made months in advance, and we still couldn’t be sure it would happen because there are so many demands for flyovers on the Fourth of July. Our jets came out of Des Moines and they would travel all over the Midwest on their patriotic missions. It was quite a thrill as they’d swing low from the west, dropping down at Buena Vista University where the parade started while screaming east along the Lakeshore Driver parade route to the tens of thousands of cheering spectators lining the route.

After Mike passed away — way too young — in 2011, we turned the parade over to Storm Lake United, which has handled it ever since. It’s no small feat.

A few of the Cullens in the Star Spangled Spectacular Big Parade, from left: John, Joe, Ann and Art.
A few of the Cullens in the Star Spangled Spectacular Big Parade, from left: John, Joe, Ann and Art.
When we weren’t running the parade the Cullens often marched in it with the Parade of Nations. We walked with the rag-tag Irish, along with Joe O’Malley, Steve Hamilton and any other son or daughter of the olde sod.

One year, when our kids were young, our family even led the Parade of Nations. I’m not sure how we got picked, but it was a great honor.

And of course Art was Grand Marshal in 2018, the year after he won the Pulitzer Prize for writing the nation’s best editorials.

It’s hard to adequately describe a parade, especially one as personal as our Star Spangled Spectacular. You have to see it to appreciate it. I sure appreciate ours.

God bless America.

Fillers, John Cullen

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