There is nothing like the atmosphere of a small town celebration where everyone knows each other or at least recognizes each other, but I have to tell you this celebration in Dayton, Idaho is especially near and dear to my heart.
About 3 years ago, my son Beau was struggling with his speech. He was going to therapists at our local elementary school, as well as at Utah State University. He could talk a little, but chose not to.
At the celebration there was a large kids pool filled with water and trout - not little trout either…..big ones. At the age of 4 Beau waded into the water with bag in hand to catch a fish. I crossed my fingers hoping my non-aggressive boy would catch one in the big pool and not have to try in the mini pool with the little kids. He tried and tried to grab those fast, slippery things. He was close, then they would slip from his grip. Eventually, he dove for one, not just a weak, small one, but the biggest trout of the bunch. When he came up for air his prize was securely held in a tight grip and his tongue was released. He stopped everyone - neighbor, stranger, kid, adult, grandparent….everyone - to tell them about his fish he named Uhga. Most people couldn't understand him, smiled and kept on walking, but he was talking and that meant he was trying and that meant progress. The Dayton City 4th of July activity of catching a trout broke his silence and gave him the confidence he needed to speak.
This year a child from South Jordan, Utah became the talk of the town. Why? He had a hairless rat on his shoulder, down his shirt, crawling all over the place. Curious children would talk to this boy about his rat. Why he had it? Where he got it? The part of the story that people didn't hear was this boy had Asperger's Syndrome. A three thousand dollar service dog was at his side to help, but it was the rat that calmed him and gave him the confidence to be in large crowds and interact with others. This boy was finding the success he needed to enjoy his freedom during the Dayton City 4th of July Celebration.
This small town celebration is becoming part of the cure for children. The smiling faces, neighbors talking, friends gathering, people celebrating the accomplishments of others is the evidence of what freedom looks like when it's nestled in a small Idaho town.