ROUND TOP, Texas (Nexstar) — Only 90 people live in the city limits of Round Top, Texas, but that hasn’t stopped thousands of people from dropping in on it’s famous Fourth of July celebration.
The city, which sits between Austin and Houston, first started celebrating Independence Day in 1851. This year marks the 169th year in a row of the festivities. Organizers tout the event as the oldest celebration west of the Mississippi River.
“The Fourth of July is a big thing in Fayette County, and Round Top has always been the granddaddy of them all,” Fayette County Judge Joe Weber said.
“People of all races, religion, political beliefs, we have local people, people from the state, people from all over the country come to it,” he explained.
A Civil War cannon kicks off the parade with a literal bang. The cannon misfired one year, ultimately leading to the death of the man who peered inside to find out what happened. It went off while he was too close for comfort, and he died in the following days.
While some Texas cities downplayed their celebrations on the holiday during the Civil War, German settlers in the region kept the traditions going.
“Fayette County did not want to even go along with the succession, they were really against it,” Round Top Rifle Association President Michael Sacks said. The association has been in charge of the parade’s operations since 1882.
“For us to be able to put something like this on, takes many hats, many people, friends, neighbors, lots of members, members’ families, and to be able to do that for the general public is an awesome honor,” Sacks said.
Brett Derbes, managing editor of the Handbook of Texas, produced by the Texas State Historical Association, said there is documentation to back up the first year of the parade’s existence in Round Top.
“We have an account of it in the Texas Monument,” Derbes stated. “There’s a quote that says actually, “The Fourth of July was celebrated at this place with that spirit of good feeling that should characterize every meeting that assembles to pay on her to the birthday of American independence.’”
As far as the claim that the celebration is the longest-running west of the Mississippi, states like Louisiana, Arkansas, or Missouri might have something to say about that.
“It wouldn’t surprise me to hear of someone said ‘no we are actually the first’, but this is great for Round Top and this is great for Texas, and we love that there has been a continuous patriotic celebration in Round Top,” Derbes said.
“No one has ever challenged that,” Sacks said with a smile.
The annual parade and barbecue meal that follows are more than just a celebration of America’s birthday, attendees said. It marks a time for friends and neighbors to come together to honor the country and resolve conflict.
“There may be some division in the country and all that, but here’s a great example for everyone to rise up and work together and just enjoy being Americans together and celebrate things together, that we are all proud of in that we can all be patriots in that way,” Derbes said.