For 51 weeks a year, Osceola Mills is pretty quiet. There is one stoplight, a lot of churches and an old-fashioned square park where the heroes of past wars are honored in stone.
But there is that one week.
It comes at the beginning of July. That’s when the Columbia Fire Company holds its festival every year, a weeklong small-town celebration that helps generate money for the first responders while it acts as an annual Sunday supper for the community, something that brings people together and keeps them close.
This week, Pruner Street, next to the fire hall, will be blocked off. Vendors will sell tasty fair food treats. Children will clamor to play the midway games to score an inflatable Spider-Man or a live goldfish in a plastic bag.
Last year, there were no carnival rides, but company personnel say they will return this year, by popular demand.
There will be tickets for the raffle. It used to be a car, but now, it cuts right to the chase with $10,000 in cash as the top prize.
And more than anything, there is the parade.
The Fourth of July is Osceola’s time to sparkle. The streets along the route will be thick with children eager to see baton twirlers and firetrucks. OK, really, they want the candy. Cheerleaders will pull carts of ice-cold soda to sell to hot spectators.
It all starts at 11 a.m., but the streets will start to crowd hours earlier. By 10 a.m., getting in and out of sleepy Osceola will be more like getting out of a Beaver Stadium parking lot after a football game.
And everywhere, you will find a friend.
It might be someone you know from work. Maybe that family member you only see at reunions and weddings. A classmate you haven’t seen since 1988. It could even be someone you haven’t ever met at all, but in Osceola Mills, on the Fourth, everyone is your next-door neighbor, and everyone is welcome to share the fun.
Lori Falce can be reached at 235-3910. Follow her on Twitter @LoriFalce.