This article was published in the Lenoir News-Topic.

The clouds hung low and gray over Hudson Thursday morning. A few plump, cold drops of drizzle dropped from the sky, falling into puddles of still water from the night before.

It wasn’t prime Independence Day weather. But in downtown Hudson, it still felt just like the Fourth.

The sounds, sights and colors of the town’s annual Kiddie Car parade couldn’t have been more small-town American:

The clang of Hudson’s miniature fire truck, and the tinny slap of soda cans tied to a bicycle wheel.

The scrape of training wheels and in-line skates on the asphalt.

A closet’s worth of patriotic garb: American flag baseball caps and top hats, headbands with red, sparkly stars bobbing in the air, and the same smocked dresses, decorated with flags and firecrackers and watermelons, that mothers have dressed their little girls in for decades of Fourth of Julys.

Kids scooted by on bicycles and tricycles, some John Deere-green and some pink with glossy streamers.

They were flanked by wagons, strollers, scooters and golf carts, everything decorated with red, white and blue ribbons, streamers and bows.

You could almost forget that the holiday hadn’t arrived with blue skies or anything in the sky requiring sunscreen, that it wasn’t really parade weather or hot-dog weather or fireworks weather.

Except that the American flags – held by marchers in the parade, and affixed to the telephone poles lining the streets – were whipping in the wind.