A Fourth of July Tradition
June 25th, 2016 by Dianna Troyer
Vehicles decked in bunting, American flags and other patriotic decorations follow a parade route that has been used by friends, families, neighbors and visitors at the Smith family’s remote Cottonwood Ranch annual Fourth of July celebration in northeastern Nevada. Photo by Alecia Maxey

Vehicles decked in bunting, American flags and other patriotic decorations follow a parade route that has been used by friends, families, neighbors and visitors at the Smith family’s remote Cottonwood Ranch annual Fourth of July celebration in northeastern Nevada.
Photo by Alecia Maxey

Every Fourth of July, a flash mob of patriotism erupts at the remote Cottonwood Ranch in northeastern Nevada with an impromptu parade and musical program—cowboy style.

In 2005, ranch owners Horace and Irene “Renie” Smith launched the star-spangled idea at their fifth-generation cattle, horse and guest ranch.

“We’re 30 miles from the nearest paved road and 70 miles from the nearest town,” says Renie, “so we decided to have our own parade and program.”

Only one rule is enforced for their family, friends, employees and guests who come from throughout America and the world: “No one is a bystander,” says Renie, who estimates there have been more than 80 participants at times. “We make floats with whatever material is around, and drive our trucks, wagons, tractors and four-wheelers, or ride our horses.”

Another unwritten rule is to cast aside political differences for a day.

“We’re all Americans,” says Renie. “It doesn’t matter what your political affiliations are. We live in a wonderful country of freedom and liberty.”

After Horace died in 2014, Renie, 86, began leading the parade as grand marshal. Driving an all-terrain vehicle along a sagebrush-lined route from the lodge to a meadow, she flies a flag presented to the family during a military funeral for her father-in-law, Emery, a World War I veteran.

In the meadow, they pause to honor veterans, including Emery, Horace—a Korean War veteran—and Horace and Irene’s son Agee, who served during the Vietnam War.

Gathering in a circle, they sing “The Star Spangled Banner,” “Home Means Nevada,” “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful.”

With the fifth generation of Smiths helping to run the ranch, “they’ll make sure our parade continues to be a tradition for all of us,” says Renie.