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Winnebago County celebrates Independence Day, return from COVID-19 pandemic

Winnebago County celebrates Independence Day, return from COVID-19 pandemic

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What has traditionally been Winnebago County’s largest Independence Day celebration returned this July 4 in Buffalo Center.

The traditional fireman’s dance was held on July 3 followed by an outdoor community church service and a brunch on the morning of July 4 to help support local ambulance volunteers. With the holiday on Sunday, the parade was held in the late afternoon rather than the morning this year followed by Lions Park events including music, free watermelon, Junior Olympics for kids, and fireworks.

“We usually have more, but it was still scaled down a little bit probably because of COVID and it being on the weekend,” Barb Murra said. A 5K glow run/walk that has been held as part of the annual Fourth-of-July celebration in past years is now scheduled in conjunction with an Aug. 10 car show in Buffalo Center this year, starting at 9:30 that night.

Murra is one of about 10 business and community leaders on the North Iowa Betterment Club, which planned this year’s Fourth of July events.

“I think it was great to have this come back like it did this year,” Murra said. “It was a strange year when we were in the middle of COVID last year. You hate to skip a year because you are a little bit afraid it might not come back the way it was before. We just moved the parade toward evening with some people out of town on the weekend. The people who were here really enjoyed the food, entertainment, kids’ races, parade, and fireworks.”

Murra said it was a far cry from last year when only a small parade was held with participants masking and social distancing. She and others had sat in their vehicles and watched from a distance amidst the pandemic.

Dressed in red, white, and blue attire along the downtown parade route, Frances Ostermann of Buffalo Center said she’s seen the Independence Day parades for most of the last 30 years, and all of the fireworks displays. She watched the parade alongside Barb Garza of Buffalo Center, who has also resided in town for nearly 30 years, and with her nephew Scott Ostermann.

“Most of us feel comfortable here and we are glad to get back out,” said Ostermann. “It’s good for the families that they can all get together.”

Debra and Donna Gerdes of Blue Earth said they grew up in Rake and come to visit Buffalo Center over the Fourth of July every year.

Cole and Dara McFarland of Swea City brought their 4-year-old daughter Ava to Buffalo Center to catch candy and participate in the July 4 festivities. Cole noted that he comes from a long line of military service veterans, so he places special importance on this holiday.

Rob Hillesland is community editor for the Summit-Tribune. He can be reached at 641-421-0534, or by email at


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