The right model: Togetherness on the Fourth

Newly renovated and greenified downtown West Bend was in its finest form Thursday for the city’s All-American 4th of July parade. It was small-town unity at its best. It was all smiles and kids running for thrown candies all along a fully packed Main Street.

There was no trace of the divisiveness that is wracking the country four months before the November elections. The good cheer about being lucky enough to be an American was pervasive.

In the few private conversations I had with friends, though, there was high anxiety about having to choose a president from two old men who should have stepped aside long ago. People from all sides are frustrated that the two major parties failed to present a capable candidate in his or her prime.

In contrast, collaborative public-private redevelopment efforts over five decades were show-cased in a beautiful, lively, thriving historic district. Many people and organizations worked together to make downtown West Bend the special place it has become. Parade marchers and watchers loved being there.

The latest contribution to the overall attractiveness of the downtown came from a group of West Benders headed by Claire Rolfs, Jim Schloemer, Kevin Steiner and Peter Ziegler. They raised $500,000 for a new downtown plan and for 35 hanging baskets of flowers; 96 pots of greens; and 77 potted trees, 23 on Main Street and 54 on the new Riverwalk.

They are complemented by 94 light-pole banners hand-painted under the leadership of Roots and Branches and Noel Braun of the Downtown West Bend Business Association.

These green amenities were a charming frame for the city parade.

Part of a healthy democracy is competition between local political candidates. Most of the contestants for coming local races were there. Incumbent Sen. Dan Feyen, R-Fond du Lac, who is running in the redrawn District 20 that includes West Bend, was there with a large group of marchers. He is new to West Bend. Also stumping was Tim Ramthun, who is challenging Feyen. They will face off in a primary vote Aug. 13.

Ramthun was the loudest election denier and Trump supporter after the 2020 presidential election that Joe Biden won narrowly in Wisconsin. He ran for governor in the 2022 GOP primary and finished third of three. He never produced evidence of a single fraudulent ballot.

The three-term incumbent in District 58, Republican Rep. Rick Gundrum, waved to the crowds, as did Deb Anderson, his Democratic challenger in November.

The crowds were more interested in the youth groups, among them the East and West football players; high school band members; West Bend Swim Club; West Bend Dance Club; the high school trap team; kids in sawed off barrel carts; Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts; and cheer leaders twirling mock rifles.

The crowd cheered for marching dog menagerie, one with red and blue stars dyed in its coat. The City’s mammoth fire truck with a long boom and firefighter basket impressed as the parade closed.

All in all, it was a coming together of all kinds of Americans. Let’s keep these grand hometown parades in mind as our political geniuses work to divide us and win a narrow election victory

We have way more in common than not.

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