Area communities displayed their patriotism on Thursday with a series of parades, fireworks and activities in celebration of Independence Day, commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
Hundreds of people lined the streets of Carl Junction to watch the annual Fourth of July parade cross Main Street, marking one of the community’s first large events since the May 22 tornado that damaged more than 300 homes.
Dixie Asbell, 77, who began Carl Junction’s first Fourth of July parade in 2015, said she’s proud that she can give residents a sense of normalcy again with the event. She said this would be her last year to organize the parade.
“This was way better than I ever could’ve imagined it could be,” she said. “It was a great swan song, and I thought that last year. Everybody thinks I’ll step up every year, but I can’t do it anymore. The parade’s a wonderful thing, and we feel like there's enough people who know how great it is, and they’ll step up and do it.”
The city’s firemen led the parade downtown and were followed by the Turkey Creek Fusiliers, a local group of living history reenactors who sported authentic military dress from different wars.
Steve Cottrell, of Carthage, has been involved with military reenactment since 1972 and is a descendant of a 6th Kansas Cavalry member who served in the Civil War. While wearing a wool Revolutionary War uniform, Cottrell carried a blue Liberty flag, which he said has ties to Jasper County and the American Revolution.
“This flag was flying over Fort Moultrie in South Carolina when it was bombarded by the British in 1776,” Cottrell said. “The flagstaff was busted in two by a British cannonball. Sgt. William Jasper grabbed the flag, reattached to it an artillery sponge and then climbed up the flagstaff at the top of the fort under British enemy fire. He retied it to the main pole and saved the flag, becoming one of America’s very first war heroes.”
A team of children riding decorated bikes, mowers, wagons and other equipment followed close behind to show off their handmade creations. Aiden Sommer, 6, of Webb City, rode in a red, white and blue airplane with pinwheels and an American flag. His father, Steve Sommer, said they made the plane out of recycled materials.
Aiden won first place in the decoration contest for his age group. This was his second consecutive year winning the annual competition.
“We’ve become heavy participants in the parade, and you have to remember that we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for all of the men and women who fought for our country and still are,” Steve Sommer said.
Joplin celebrated Fourth of July at the Fred G. Hughes Stadium on Missouri Southern State University's campus, and there was no shortage of food trucks, music or inflatables.
Rick Tackett Jr., of Springfield, displayed a banner on a canopy tent reading, “We are ‘The Flying T’ Originals. Honoring Those Who Serve.” Tackett is the son of two military helicopter pilots, Diana and Rick Tackett, and he said “The Flying T” is a symbol of inspiration for his family.
“My stepmother was the first female helicopter pilot in Missouri for the National Guard,” he said. “My mother had a (helicopter) crash in (August) 2009, and it hurt her pretty bad, but she saved the life of her and her crew. She was flying to pick up a patient, lost power and had to ditch it in the ocean. She was sinking with the aircraft, but they were able to get out.”
Tackett said his mother is now writing a book about their family and the wings that carried them, which is what led him to create the "Flying T" logo years ago. His father flew helicopters for the Army and proposed to Diana Tackett up in the air 30 years ago.
“I’m completely honored to have grown up next to these people,” Tackett about his parents. “After they got out of the military, they both flew medevac for Cox South Hospital for 15 years and another 10 years for the county in Florida. They have absolutely dedicated their lives for other people.
“Fourth of July means that you stand up tall and fight for what you believe in,” he added. “We want to honor those people who have served in our military.”