An Old Time Country 4th of July – Custer, South Dakota

Some of our favorite 4th of July celebrations have been in small towns, and this year we were very fortunate to be in Custer, South Dakota, in time for their festivities which they call their Old Time Country 4th of July.

Custer town is nestled in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and the normally quiet streets were overflowing with visitors as the townspeople gathered for the parade.

Fourth of July Parade preparation Custer South Dakota

An RV in town for the 4th of July is passed by fire trucks as they head to the parade start.

There are loads of little tourist shops in town, and red-white-and-blue-wear was available in every style and every size.

Red white and blue clothes for 4th of July

Local shops offered many ways to wear red, white and blue!

The younger set were particularly fashionable.

Children's parade 4th of July Custer South Dakota

Kids went all out to dress up for the 4th.

We had arrived in Custer a few days earlier, and we had heard from everyone we met that Custer’s 4th of July celebration was very special. And they were so right. We got a huge kick out of it!

As people arrived with chairs in hand to stake out a spot along the parade route, an announcer got the crowd fired up on the front steps of the museum. He called on people in the crowd to find out where they were from. Lots of folks were from Utah, Arizona and Colorado, but there were people in town from North Carolina, New Hampshire and other far flung states as well.

Announcer 4th of July Custer South Dakota

There was a hub of activity around the museum in the middle of town.

The hallmark of Custer’s 4th of July parade is the kickoff when nearby Ellsworth Air Force Base, over in Rapid City, South Dakota, sends a B1 bomber right down the main drag for a flyover. What a rush! I got a video clip, but like the real thing, it’s over almost as soon as it starts!

B1 bomber 4th of July Custer SD

After burner glow…

The parade began with all the town kids dressed up in America’s colors riding their bikes. What a great idea!! From toddlers on balance bikes to little kids with training wheels to big kids zipping along on two-wheelers, they were all decked out. Some even had balloons.

Children's Parade kids on bikes 4th of July Custer South Dakota

The parade started with all the local kids on their bikes decorated and dressed up in red, white and blue.

Then Old Glory arrived followed by the Mayor carrying the Custer city flag, and soon after we saw Uncle Sam strolling past on stilts.

Flag bearers 4th of July Custer South Dakota

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Uncle Sam on stilts 4th of July Custer South Dakota

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There were lots of cars and trucks including an old Fire Department Salvage Truck. The junior fire fighters put their fire hats on and plugged their ears as the big fire trucks drove by.

Old fire truck 4th of July Parade Custer South Dakota

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Junior fire fighters 4th of July Parade Custer, South Dakota

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A snake oil salesman snuck into the parade, along with several vehicles honoring American veterans. Then a very cool old yellow truck went by with a huge flag representing a group that cares for disabled vets. We got a closer look at it after the parade was over as it drove back through town.

4th of July Celebration Custer South Dakota 4

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Operation Black Hills Cabin 4th of July Custer South Dakota

“Operation Black Hills Cabin” cares for disabled vets.

Later on, the day was capped off with a fantastic fireworks display.

The fireworks were shot off at Pageant Hill, but they could be seen from all over town. Before the fireworks began, the city’s fire trucks circled the town with sirens blaring. At first we thought something had gone wrong, but as people continued to arrive all around us and calmly set up their chairs to watch the fireworks, we realized the parade of fire trucks with lights and sirens whirring was all part of the show.

It seemed to take forever for darkness to fall, but at last the fireworks began. The show went on for a very long time and ended with a big finale. We had a blast taking photos…

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Fireworks 4th of July Custer South Dakota

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Fireworks 4th of July Custer South Dakota

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4th of July Fireworks Custer South Dakota

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Fireworks 4th of July Custer South Dakota

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4th of July Fireworks Custer South Dakota

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Fireworks 4th of July Custer South Dakota

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4th of July fireworks Custer South Dakota

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When you begin planning your RV travels for next summer, if you’re looking for a fun town to celebrate the 4th of July, head to Custer, South Dakota!!

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12 thoughts on “An Old Time Country 4th of July – Custer, South Dakota

  1. I’ll say what you’ve heard thousands of times, “you are my best and favorite bloggers!” I have been following you for a long time and have started others to do so. We have wanted to go full-time for about 6 years, but haven’t been able to sell our house, a beautiful home on the marsh in South Carolina. Woe is me. I love all your photos and love seeing our country through your eyes and camera lens. Would you tell me the camera settings for shooting fireworks? I have a nice camera, but can’t seem to grasp the configuration of settings.

    • Wow, Sandi, what an incredibly wonderful compliment to wake up to this morning. Thank you very much! I so appreciate it. I was just reading a travel magazine article about South Carolina and hope we’ll get there someday soon. Have faith, your house will sell!!

      We have tried various camera settings for fireworks, but this year we put our cameras on tripods, set the ISO to the base value for the camera (usually anywhere from 64 to 200, depending on the camera), set them to F8 and put the shutter speed in Bulb. We used our remote shutter releases to open and close the shutters at whatever time intervals seemed good. We had our Hoodman loupes so we could see in detail how the photos were turning out as we took them. The shutter speeds ranged from 3 to 10 seconds. The hardest part was deciding when to open and close the shutter since you have no idea what each explosion will look like or when the next one will be shot up!!

  2. Awesome fireworks photos!! It’s good to see a small town parade and people still place their hand across their heart as the flag passes by – looks like a good place to be on July 4th!!

  3. SPEC-TAC-U-LAR shots of the fireworks…every one winner 🙂 Fondest memories of the parade in Rockport, MA – small town, America…I LOVE YOU !!!

    • Thanks!! Our favorite places are towns with 10,000 people or less. Each one is unique, but they share a common bond of taking life a little slower. Everyone warned us about the “horrendous traffic” we’d be in after the fireworks were over. We found out the good folks of Custer just aren’t used to waiting in stop-and-go traffic for 10 minutes!!!

  4. Awesome pictures….again! Delightful to get this excellent photography with superb narrative from you both. You’re quite a team, you are! (But we have a feeling that you are probably aware of that, huh?)

    And your article about mobile internet was timely, as our Verizon jet pack is old, and our Verizon Plan is in the same shape as yours, before you changed. Have followed the two experts at Mobile Internet for many years, but can’t keep up with buying new gadgets at $200 – 600 a shot. So your minimalist solution works for us too.

    And thank goodness for your great photography skills; because we have enough expensive hobbies without adding another! Besides, you both show us the Country we love to see, as you leave travel crumbs, going down the RV path….. so keep up the fabulous, illustrated travel adventures….Bette & Glen Horsmann, from HOT Sun City, Aryzona

    • Thanks, Gen & Bette — The online world is a dizzying one, and just staying connected to it can turn us all into rats running on treadmills with piles of dollar bills falling out of our pockets. I’m happy to know our “minimalist solution” was timely and hope you find a plan that works for you.

      As for photography, there are so many stunning places in this country of ours. It seems we learn about precious nooks and crannies we’ve never heard of every day from other travelers we meet on the road. It’s quite a thrill to make these new discoveries, and we love sharing our pics of what we find. Stay cool down there in AZ!!

  5. I almost missed this article Emily! I had it in the Inbox and forgot to read it! Sorry. As usual, some great shots of America’s traditions and I loved those fireworks photos!

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