BELTON, TX — When small towns in Central Texas hold big events, it’s sure to be on most folks' calendars, especially when it involves a major holiday like the Fourth of July.
However, in 2020, the COVID-19 virus rained on almost everybody’s parades and forced cancellations or virtual celebrations.
This year though looks much different, especially in Belton, Texas, where the city canceled its 100-some-year celebration but brought it back now with more people getting vaccinated and enjoying the loosened statewide restrictions.
Leading up to the parade, the sounds of hammering, stapling, sweeping and leaf blowing filled the downtown square of the historic town.
These are the sounds of preparation and some of the thousands of expected parade-goers never hear.
“It’s a giant event for Belton, Texas. It’s one of the biggest celebrations it is around here in Bell County,” said 75-year-old Willie Kimble.
The Belton-native shared generations-long stories about going to the Belton Independence Day parade, sharing memories about going with his grandmother.
So, it’s safe to say that if anyone knows about how big of a deal the celebration is, it’s him.
“There’s not too much going on, it’s such a small town, and so when they do have a big event, it’s very exciting for everybody,” he said.
During the conversation, Kimble swept the common area outside of the popular restaurants, ‘The Gin,’ and ‘Scores Sports Bar and Grill.’
He was joined by city workers who leaf-blowed each sidewalk lining Main Street, and local business owners who were caught hanging up red, white and blue decorations, ready for all to see.
“I know things aren’t going to be 100% normal, but just to get back out there, and people will be outside, and to see all of this, it’s just so good for the businesses to participate in,” Branch Skeeter, a manager at Cochran, Blair and Potts, one of Belton’s oldest shops, said.
Now that we’re all inching toward a new normal, Sketer, who grew up in the area, is excited to welcome back his friends, family and neighbors.
“I still think it’s a cool thing that we all get to be together and things are opening up,” he said, smiling.
I guess it’s true when they say every setback has a comeback.
So, here’s some advice from the two parade veterans.
“Bring the mister, bring plenty of water,” Sketer explained. “Park toward the end of the parade.”
Also remember, “be safe during this holiday, stay free from accidents and stuff,” Kimble followed.
Festivities are going on right now with the PCRA Rodeo at the Bell County Expo. Center.
Then, the fun continues on into Saturday with the big parade starting at 10 a.m., and it carries over into Sunday with a concert at the First Baptist Church at 3 in the afternoon.