A Bang-Up Fourth of July
One for the books: Record crowds visit Ennis’s Fourth of July
ENNIS—The biggest block party of the summer lived up to its hype at the “Meet Me in Ennis, Montana” Fourth of July celebrations. Around 10,000 people packed Main Street for Ennis’s 83rd annual parade, and many stayed all day to take in a variety of offerings and soak up some—finally—summer-like weather.
The Fourth kicked off with the annual fireman’s pancake breakfast at the Ennis Rural Fire Department. The breakfast, funded largely by donation, drew well over a thousand people, fueling them up before the parade began.
The parade itself shut down Main Street with nearly 60 floats, performers and entries (four more than last year, says Ennis Chamber’s Halley Perry). From dancers to motocross bikers, Smokey the Bear to Scooby-Doo, the Willie’s Distillery in Ennis to Big Tweed from Ventura, California, there was something for everyone to enjoy. Awards were given later in the day in six categories: Most Creative (Motivated Mayhem), Best Youth Float (Ennis Children’s Community School) Best Classic Car (Mobile RV Tech), Most Patriotic (Baghdad Shriners), Best Riders (Bozeman Saddle-ites) and best Overall floats (Big Tweed for the out-of-town category and The Bale of Hay Saloon in the local category).
Later in the morning, focus switched from the street to the sky as two Army veterans parachuted onto the Ennis Schools football field, bringing with them the flag to be used at the remembrance ceremony at the Veteran’s Memorial. Between them, Bryan M. and Al Charters have 49 years of military service and thousands of parachute jumps. Over three hundred people gathered around the school track and on the hill at the memorial to watch the two carry the flag onto the field, then carry it to the memorial, where a crowd waited to honor America’s veterans and place 23 new memorial bricks on the wall surrounding the flag.
One of those bricks honored not a person, but a phrase. “Have no fun,” was a favorite saying of Lieutenant Colonel (ret.) Andy DeBona, a Vietnam veteran who passed away in February. He used it to end meetings, phone calls or just conversations, and a ripple of laughter went through the assembled crowd when the brick bearing his words was laid on the wall. A memorial plaque
Other memorial bricks honored veterans from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force. Ceremony emcee John Kimmel said that in years to come they’ll try to “do better” with bricks honoring the Air Force, which had only one representative brick laid this year.
The veterans honored on Wednesday served in the War on Terror, the Vietnam War, the Korean War and even World War II. Many were laid by friends and family members who attended the ceremony as sponsors. One brick in particular honored a soldier killed in action—Tony Olaes, a Special Forces medial sergeant who died in September 2004 in Afghanistan. The Ennis Honor Guard presented the colors and performed a 21-gun salute to conclude the ceremony, and Ennis Schools music teacher Andrew Scruggs played Taps.
The Fourth of July concluded with the second day of Ennis’s legendary rodeo. After kicking off with an hour of youth rough stock rodeo, the NRA professional competition got underway, with over fifty competitors riding broncos, wrestling steers and racing barrels. Over its two-day stretch, the event—always a popular one—drew over a thousand spectators.