When Nathan and his family moved from a small town to a big city, he noticed that many things were different. For instance, he lived in an apartment building in the city. It was July, and he hadn’t met any other children yet. He’d probably have to wait and make new friends when school started in the fall. Everyone seemed too busy now.
In the small town where Nathan used to live, the flag was a special part of the Fourth of July celebration. His dad ran a flag up the pole in their front yard that morning and took it down that evening. Flags flew from tall poles, porches, and store fronts all up and down the street. There had always been a parade, too, and Nathan usually rode his bike in it. One year he had led the parade, marching and twirling his baton, instead.
But it seemed to him that everyone here in the big city was in a hurry. There were going to be fireworks in a nearby park that night, he knew, and there was a big Fourth of July parade downtown, but no one was doing anything in his neighborhood that he could see.
Nathan looked out the window and watched a city bus stop at the corner and people climb on and off at the same time. He watched the cars rushing by, people hurrying on their way to somewhere. No one seemed to care about the holiday.
As he twisted the stick that held a small flag between his fingers, he asked, “Dad, can one person and a dog be a parade?”
His dad looked thoughtful. “I suppose so.”
Patting his dog, Nathan thought a while and then laughed. “Come on, Scruffy, this is the Fourth of July, and we’re going to have a parade. Just the two of us.”
He asked his mom if she had any ribbon. She found some in her sewing box.
“Red, blue, and white—the perfect colors!” he declared. “Just what I need. Now, Scruffy, you hold still while I tie some streamers on your collar and put on your leash.”
Nathan found his baton, took hold of Scruffy’s leash, and went out the door. The dog looked at Nathan, woofed, then trotted beside him. “I won’t cross the street, Scruffy. That’s not safe in the big city. But we can still have a parade.”
Nathan marched boldly down the sidewalk, holding his flag and Scruffy’s leash in one hand and twirling his baton with the other. When they turned the corner, he looked in the drugstore window and saw lots of flags on display. A boy coming out of the drugstore bumped into him.
“Whoops! Sorry,” the boy said. He laughed when he saw Scruffy with his fancy streamers. “Where’d you get the flag and baton?”
“From the parade I was in last year. Have you ever been in a parade?”
“Want to be in mine?”
“I sure do! Let’s go to my house so I can get my drum for it.”
Soon the boys were marching down the street. Nathan waved his flag and twirled his baton. The other boy tramped along behind, beating his drum, and Scruffy pranced along with his streamers fluttering in the breeze.
When they reached the corner, Nathan explained, “I’m not allowed to cross the street.”
They turned the corner. The boy did a rat-a-tat-tat on the drum.
“What’s your name?” Nathan asked.
“Simon. What’s yours?”
Nathan told him, then asked, “Who else can be in our parade?”
Simon said, “We’ll get Jenny—she lives here.” He ran up the steps, rang the bell, and waited. A girl opened the door. “We’re having a parade. If you want to be in it, bring your horn.”
Nathan, Simon, and Jenny marched—left, right, left, right. Nathan waved his flag and twirled his baton, Simon beat his drum, and Jenny blew her horn. Scruffy now led the way, tail held high.
Mr. Swartz, the grocer, stood in the door of his market. “Hey!” he shouted. “What’s all the racket?”
“We’re having a parade.”
“Come in a minute,” the grocer said. “I’ll make you hats.”
Scruffy waited outside while the children went with the grocer to the back of the store, where he made hats from folded white butcher paper. They marched out of the store, wearing their hats, and waved the flag, twirled the baton, beat the drum, and tooted the horn.
The people in the store clapped their hands and smiled.
When the children were on the sidewalk again, they noticed three girls and two boys coming toward them.
“Hey!” Simon called. “Do you want to join our parade?”
“What can we do?” one girl asked. “We don’t have drums or horns or even a flag.”
“You can whistle,” Nathan said.
“All right!” they cheered, and they joined the parade.
Scruffy barked as Nathan turned the corner. He looked back. “Wow!”
Most of the people from the market had joined the parade!
A man in a wheelchair did wheelies.
A young mother carried a baby who clapped its hands.
An older woman with a feather in her hat clapped too.
A man with a soda pop whistled.
A woman with two little girls skipped and waved flags.
A boy on a skateboard zipped back and forth.
“Look,” Nathan shouted, “they’ve all joined the parade! The big city isn’t too busy to have a parade after all. And now I have lots of new friends too!”