They spring up mid-summer, up and down Fort Street, just like the tulips did last April. Overnight they blossom. Mostly they are the white, plastic variety but inter-mingled you will see folding ones, leftovers from old church buildings, a few green ones and even some old-fashioned woven-web ones. Lawn chairs begin lining the street, sprouting up and filling in, up and down the road. Visitors to town wonder what is happening along the route and are amused to find that the event is still two or even three weeks away. For the month of July, the locals live in “anticipation” of Draper Days and also relish in a bit of smugness that they have “saved” the perfect spot under the shadiest tree.
The funny thing about our “the early bird gets the best taffy” mentality is that there is still plenty of room for even the latest of comers to view the parade. Plenty of room for any young child to be in a prime spot to catch candy. Plenty of room to pitch an awning and bring your own shade. And even if you have “homesteaded” the perfect spot on the perfect corner, Draperites all become instant neighbors along the route–long before the police motorcycles arrive, honking their horns and driving in figure-eights down the street. In the early summer morning, old friendships are rekindled and new friendships made while everyone looks out for the little ones. Watermelon and muffins, squirt guns and blankets are shared by all…it really doesn’t matter how early in the month you planted your chair.
There is something reassuring in the seasonal blossoming of Draper corn, snow cone shacks and plastic lawn chairs. Something about the sameness of it, year after year, that calms us. As political candidates ride down Fort Street throwing Tootsie Rolls from the back of convertible Corvettes and a new generation of cheerleaders perform handsprings across the pavement, life seems like it’s going as it should be. The music of local marching bands and rock and roll churches drowns out our daily cares—for a morning anyway. Bottles of free water quench our thirst. And most important, neighbors have a few moments to sit, catch up on each other’s lives and remember why we all fell in love with this community.
On this one day of the year, our little corner of the valley is caught in a time warp where “the good old days” collide with “the best is yet to come.” Where grown children return home to family barbeques and concerts in the park and new families are initiated with the “Best Fireworks Show in the Salt Lake Valley.” Where else are there old-fashioned rodeo queens and new-fashioned Idol contestants? It is a magical weekend of high-flying, swimming dogs, calves covered in money and the Beatles getting together again for one last performance. Draper Days reminds so many of their deep roots and for young families starting out, it is a place to begin building traditions. The best part though…it is fun!
Almost before the last sparkler is doused on the 4th of July, the chairs will begin to line the street, in anticipation of an even bigger July holiday. Overnight, motor homes will find a place to parallel park in the oddest of places. Most of us will roll our eyes and comment to our spouse, “Can you believe someone put out their chairs already?” But secretly, we will begin to hum the old song, “Anticipation is keeping me waiting.” Because in Carly Simon’s words…”These are the good old days!”