It is perhaps the most fitting legacy of the 19th century utopian, anarchist, skinny-dipping founders of Home Colony that their successors celebrate the founding of the nation with a Fourth of July parade that no one started, organized or advertised, which has nevertheless attracted a marching band that doesn’t march (or play music), lawn-loving patriots on riding mowers, an assortment of decorated bicycles, strollers and livestock, and hundreds of onlookers every year for nearly three decades through nothing more than the ungovernable force of its own poetic momentum through time.
“People dressed up and walked around and waved flags and other people stared at us, that’s how it started,” said Bette McCord, a Lakebay resident since 1979. McCord is now the conductor of the perennial Peace Train float, a tie-dyed decorated wagon overflowing with tie-dyed children.
“There were also decorative goats,” she said.
Leila Luginbill has lived on A Street along the parade route since 2011; her parents bought the house in 1979. “We have front row seats,” she said. “Actually, it used to be that everybody was in the parade, so there was no one left to watch it.”
“There were also decorative goats.”
Luginbill first marched in the parade sometime in the early 1990s, she said, but according to her mother, local historian Stella Retherford, it had been going on for at least a few years by then.
“Mother wanted to be in it, so we finally went. There were a few lawn tractors and an old car or two, and some ponies.”
Luginbill’s mother continued to march in the parade until she passed away in 2014. Luginbill has tried to keep up the tradition.
“I was in it a few years ago,” she said. “My friend Ginger Lanier from down the way wanted to go dressed as a squid, and so I went as a squid wrangler.”
Whatever its origins, the parade now traditionally begins at 10 a.m. on the Fourth of July at the intersection of A Street and the KP Highway. It ambles along A Street very slowly, gathering strength as passersby join the array of vintage vehicles and decorative goats escorted by children on bikes with flags taped to the handlebars and lawn tractors trailing red-white-and-blue streamers.
The parade reliably slows down at one spot on the route where The Dr. Roes Down Home Band and guests, often in uniform (though not the same uniform), belt out brass ballads with lots of percussion.
The Key Peninsula Fire Department is also well represented.
“We’ve got no problem staffing all the rigs with volunteers that day; last year we had five in the parade plus a full shift on duty,” said Volunteer Battalion Chief Anne Nesbit. “We always overstaff for the Fourth, though we tend to get more falls than fires.”
As the parade moves on, so too does the crowd, all ending up at the corner of A Street and the uphill turn to 10th Avenue, where they confront a formidable display of pancake flipping and sausage grilling, courtesy of Home residents Paul Gruver and brothers Gerald and Garry Schneider.
“Our first summer here was 2000 and there was a small parade, but at the end there used to be a lady there that handed out Popsicles, just as a way to say, ‘Thanks, we’re glad to have you.’ We thought that was a cool thing,” Gruver said.
“But it dawned on me that I really like this Key Peninsula community, this Home community, and I didn’t know of any other day of the year where the people of this little community would actually get together, get eyes on each other, and shake hands and tell each other stories and all that kind of stuff,” he said. “So, I floated the idea of pancakes and sausage to a couple of friends, and we decided that we would put on our pancake breakfast one year. It started small, 100, maybe 75, and last year we served over 450.”
Gruver, a retired Air Force brigadier general, organizes the complimentary breakfast with the two Schneiders: Gerald, a retired Air Force colonel and Garry, a retired Navy captain. They work with ten volunteers.
“I think this is going to be our 12th year,” he said.
“We love doing this. Home is just a funky, different place and I think the parade is a fun, funky thing that celebrates our nation’s birth but in a Home kind of way, and I think it’s just perfect.”