The rain held off and the Fourth of July parade went off without a hitch.

Parade goers watched as cheerleaders, beauty queens, and fire trucks made their way down Washington Street Wednesday morning. There were floats, horses, go-carts and motorcycles carrying kids, musicians and city and state officials. There were antique tractors, new tractors, tractors that sputtered and tractors that did tricks.

But mostly there was candy. Lots and lots of candy.

Kids, many waving small, American flags, lined both sides of the street to gather as many Tootsie Rolls, Jolly Rangers and Bubble Gum as they could get their hands on.

It was a great start to a day when Americans across the country celebrated their freedom with family, friends, hot dogs and apple pie.

This year, one man received a very special honor during the parade. As George Sparkman passed McDonald’s, 180 red, white and blue balloons were released into the big Texas sky. VFW Post 9181 and the Ladies Auxiliary organized the balloon release in honor of Sparkman, who was a charter member of the local VFW chapter and served as the state commander from 1980-1988.

Virginia Abel called Sparkman a “special man who everyone knows.”

Sara Vanden Berge covers courts, law enforcement, and business and political issues for the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at Her work number is 968-2379, ext. 240.