Lincoln's 67th annual Fourth of July parade started with a stop this year.
As the parade moved forward at 11 a.m., a group of vehicles became stuck in the parade's pathway on Highway 287, including one hulking semitrailer. Lewis and Clark County Sheriff/Coroner Leo Dutton and Captain Brent Colbert led the vehicles through the parade on horseback before letting them escape on the other side of town after a few minutes.
"This has happened two years in a row," Merle Hoerner, captain of the Lincoln Rural Fire Department said after he finished directing traffic while children darted into the street to grab candy thrown out by paraders.
"People pull out of the gas station and they're in front of the traffic block," he said with a matter-of-fact tone.
The parade continued on with flair after that early hiccup. Brilliant classic cars and homemade floats made their way down the highway in a sustained burst of small-town Americana in advance of the Lincoln Open Rodeo, which was set to begin later in the afternoon.
"The rodeo's gonna be packed," Hoerner said.
Over 1,000 people lined the side of the road to watch a few dozen cars, floats, tractors, horses, and mule pack trains make their way down to Hooper Park.
Lincoln's American Legion Post 9 led the parade as the color guard. Post 9 Adjutant Doug Vulcan said operating as color guard was part of the Post's "community service."
"We support Americans and showing proper respect for the flag," Vulcan said.
Vulcan said the Legion passes out over 1,000 cards explaining flag etiquette during the parade.
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"A lot of people could use a little education," Vulcan said, before a train of pack mules drew him and the photographer to the roadside again.
The U.S. Forest Service Northern Region mule pack train and the K Lazy 3 Outfitters mule pack train both paraded in full gear down the street, a reminder of the role work animals still have in Montana's backcountry.
Chris Joyce drove a Bobcat behind the pack trains and rodeo riders, cleaning up the remnants of hay breakfasts all the while.
At the Pit Stop, Sheriff Dutton said this was the 10th time he had ridden in Lincoln's parade and marveled at the amount of spectators this year.
"I'm surprised at how many people showed up," Dutton said.
As the parade wound down, Lincoln Chamber of Commerce Member Erin Dey prepared to give out awards to the best floats in Hooper Park.
"This means a lot of economic upside for Lincoln," Dey said. Summer events are deeply important to the well-being of the 600-odd population of Lincoln.
Dey said Jesse Sullin was "instrumental" in getting the parade expanded so much this year.
"It's a good boost to commerce," Dey said.