Wasta celebrates with Independence Day festivities
Current and former Wasta area residents gathered in Wasta for Independence Day festivities, marking the 19th year in a row that the small town on the Cheyenne River has hosted its festivities which now include a parade, picnic lunch, games and talent show.
Event organizers Lloyd and Margee Willey moved to the large yellow hotel in Wasta in 1993. Both South Dakota natives, they had been living in California and were eager to resume South Dakota life. From their new hotel home, the Willeys regularly hosted a family reunion during the summer. The event became a community-wide one when one of the Willey’s daughters told her mother that she wanted her own children to experience a small-town South Dakota Fourth of July celebration. Margee looked around the area, but could not find a celebration that was close enough to make it feasible for the Willey’s family.
Undaunted, Margee and Lloyd decided to host their own small-town celebration. The Willeys approached the town board during a regular meeting and presented their plan. Independence Day of 1997 saw the beginning of what has become a tradition for many families.
The inaugural event was made even more special, as Margee and Lloyd chose that day as their wedding day. The parade would take place in the morning, and their wedding was set for the afternoon. The town board informed the pair that while they did not need a permit to have the parade, they would need to clean up any droppings left by horses in the parade. Lloyd and Margee decided that, on their nuptial day, they would ride in a cart behind the horses and scoop up any droppings. “You know how it goes- first you are scooping the droppings, then you are just kind of shoveling them at each other,” Margee said.
“Since that time, neither of us has had any freedom or independence, and there has been a lot of horse puckey,” Margee said.
Now in its 19th year, the Wasta Fourth of July celebration has grown to include a parade, picnic in the park, games for people of all ages, and a talent show to round out the evening. Parade floats come from families and businesses in the Wasta area, but also include families and individuals from Wall, Quinn and New Underwood. Parade floats might be as elaborate as that of the Schell Ranch, which featured people kayaking down a river, or as simple as a collection of Wicksville, Lakeside and Elm Springs children riding their bicycles through the parade.
Games in the park included a water balloon toss, water balloon baseball, a hole-in-the-bucket relay, ring toss, tug-of-war, and a cherry pit spitting contest. In the evening, viewers were regaled with selections from current pop and country stars as well as more classic favorites.