Lennox 4th of July parade brings big crowds to small town

The 39th annual event attracts plenty of people from the big city of Sioux Falls and beyond
Published: Jul. 4, 2022 at 7:56 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - There are plenty of small-town parades all across South Dakota on Fourth of July weekend.

But somehow, the Old Fashioned Fourth of July Celebration in Lennox has become what appears to be the biggest and the most popular for a town its size in the state.

The city’s population is about 2,200, yet 8,000 to 12,000 patrons line its streets every year, with hundreds of residents and visitors staking their lawn chairs near the curbs the day before to get the best view, and many sitting in those chairs well over an hour before the event starts.

It starts a day that will include a car show, an art show, a “Little Miss Lennox” beauty pageant, a municipal band concert, and, finally, fireworks when night falls. Monday capped a three day stretch that included a “classic car cruise” and street dance on Saturday night, a city-wide all-denominations church service on Sunday

But the 4th of July parade is Lennox’s crown jewel.

”This is one of the best parades I’ve been in,” said Harry Laue, a retired farmer who drove his 1959 John Deere tractor in the parade.

“I’ve been in a lot of them, but this just seems to be the best. It’s the longest.”

So how did the parade grow from a small gathering in 1984 to the regional bash it has become today?

Long-time residents like Brenda Sinning say it’s because organizers on the Lennox Commercial Club have been refining it for three decades, mostly because it is what Lennox is best known for — its pride and joy.

“Nothing against the Sioux Falls parade, because they do a great job,” Sinning said, “but a lot of people will come and see that Lennox does it right. We’ve been at it so long.”

Sinning admitted it also doesn’t hurt that Lennox is within a half-hour drive from the state’s biggest city, with over 200,000 people.

But Sioux Falls has its own downtown parade on Independence Day. So, why do so many city slickers like Dustin Groen prefer the longer drive to celebrate his country in the country?

The special education teacher quotes the lead singer from a country parody band called Hot Country Knights.

“There’s a great American by the name of Doug Douglason who said that the USA begins with (the word) ‘us,’” Groen said, “and you get that ‘us’ feeling in a small town like Lennox.”

Some parade partakers come from well beyond Sioux Falls, like the Nichols family of Springfield, Illinois, who were staying with family in Lennox on their way to a mission trip at the Rosebud Indian Reservation.

The six Nichols children — all under age 10 — were not as philosophical as Groen when asked about what they enjoyed most about the Lennox parade.

Almost simultaneously, they all said “candy.”

“There seems to be a lot more people in the parade throwing out candy to kids than in bigger cities,” said Jeff Herrboldt, who grew up in Yankton and attends other parades in Sioux Falls occasionally, but who only had to walk a block down the street from his Lennox house to claim his front-row seat at 6 a.m.

One of the candy throwers is Laue, who at 83 didn’t retire from his job as a driver for John Deere until three years ago.

He drives in several small town parades every summer, from Menno to Madison to Granite, Iowa. Asked why he spends his Independence Day driving 32 miles to Lennox, then driving in the parade, Laue matter of factly called it “something to do.”

“I lost my wife, it’s been 10 years now, the 11th of January,” Laue said. “I don’t know what to do with myself.”

And that — just being around fellow Americans — is why a small town parade can be such a big deal, especially when the country has never been more divided.

”Just a lot of unity,” Groen said while describing the streets of Lennox. “It doesn’t matter what you believe in. It’s a great day to be an American, and freedom rings on days like today.”

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