Perhaps more than almost any other yearly event in Marshfield, the Fourth of July parade is steeped in history and tradition. This year marks the parade’s 136th annual installment — the longest consecutive-year streak of any town west of the Mississippi River.

In recent years, while the parade has gone on as usual, some of the excitement of spending family time on and around the square that used to surround the parade itself has faded. Two years ago, within 30 minutes of the parade’s completion, the square was nearly deserted.

Last year, the Marshfield Area Chamber of Commerce, which hosts the parade, attempted to alter that with a variety of afternoon activities on the square designed to keep people’s attention. To defray some of the costs associated with the extra activities, the chamber initiated fees for parade participants.

That plan went over like a lead balloon, as many traditional participants — particularly antique cars and tractor owners — chose not to participate. The resulting parade, in spite of 2014 being a local election year, was much shorter than in previous years.

The square activities, on the other hand, were well received. That combination of factors led the chamber to reverse the fee policy for this year — the parade is free once again — and expand on the afternoon entertainment offerings around the square. The result promises to hit much closer to the intended mark.

“This is not a fundraiser for us,” said chamber coordinator Sara Herren. “It’s a sponsored event that we want to make better and better every year.”

The 2015 festivities will include more music, partly due to the presence of the 135th Army National Guard Band, both in the parade and at the ceremony immediately following to honor U.S. veterans.

There will be more vendors on the square, more restroom facilities, more hand-wash stations and trash disposal locations.

But perhaps the biggest impact among post-parade features is the huge increase in inflatable entertainment features that will be located on various blocked-off side streets all around the square’s perimeter.

It’s a formula the chamber is excited about, and hopes will stimulate parade and post-parade excitement among Marshfield citizens, as well.

“When I was growing up, the Fourth of July parade was one of the really big events of the year here in Marshfield,” said Herren. “We want to get it back to being that again and keep it that way.”

Scott Kerber, editor/GM of The Marshfield Mail, is a transplanted Chicagoan/Tennessean/Nebraskan who loves the friendly atmosphere in southwest Missouri.

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