Writing this editorial from afar and checking out all the Warren Fourth of July pictures and videos on social media makes clear to me how much a part of our collective psyche the annual celebration represents.

It takes not being in The Valley to really get how the excitement builds in preparation for the event, with people dropping hints about their float building and sending around messages about their plans.

And this year, with a flood event a few days before the parade, it was hard not to recall the flood of 1998 which devastated Warren and hit Waitsfield hard. But the parade went on – even though the Ben & Jerry’s One World, One Heart music fest was canceled and many roads in and out of The Valley were impassable.

Writing from afar on the morning of July 4, I kept checking my watch and wondering why everyone wasn’t already on the road to Warren. Writing from 1,000 miles to the west, on the shores of the Great Lakes where the water and beaches rival Vermont’s Green Mountains in beauty, I appreciated the large and small flags that people put on their lawns and in the public places and it was nice, but it’s not the same.

Nothing beats seeing everyone you know in your community in one place on one day. Nothing beats the parade.

Nothing beats the parade, and the anticipation of the how our raucous community members will choose to exercise their irreverent right to free speech.

What will Prickly Mountain’s monstrosity of a float be this year? Will the Sellers architects harpoon something national or local? Will Dr. Butch’s ambulance, Sicky, make it through the parade surrounded by the throng of bizarrely dressed, Jell-O shot–tossing crew members?

And, very importantly, will Bernie show up to be greeted like a rock star? How do any politicians ever get the guts to march in this parade after Bernie goes through anyway?

The gravitational pull of the Warren Fourth of July celebration is strong. It bends me toward Vermont from a thousand miles away as it must for all displaced Vermonters and Mad River Valleyites.