Call it Slater’s “Super Bowl.” Take a drive around on the evening of July 3, through the town of 1,500, and you would swear a major football game was just hours away from kickoff. Lawn chairs sprawl across yards and RV’s fill area driveways. Cars circle the streets looking for a parking space. The smell of barbecue fills the air.

The Independence Day celebration in Slater has become the perfect opportunity for a mid-summer tailgate.

Like the “big game,” it’s become a date that’s planned for by community organizers and residents all year.

Chuck and Helen Hoeven, this year’s parade grand marshals, know all about the amount of work it takes to pull off the Fourth of July celebration in Slater. The Hoevens were active members of the Slater Community Club, which organizes the event, for over 50 years before their recent move to Missouri to be closer to family.

Many residents plan family reunions around the town’s celebration. People travel from all across the country to little Slater, Iowa, for the destination event. For others, it’s a reason for neighborhood get-togethers and vacation days from work; the perfect staycation. By the time the 10 a.m. parade rolls around the morning of July 4, there are anywhere between 10,000-20,000 people in attendance for one of the best small-town celebrations in the Midwest.

Slater’s mid-summer classic has become a part of the community’s DNA, creating memories of a lifetime for many — like this year’s newly crowned Fourth of July Queen, Liz McInroy, who told the Tri-County Times last week she used to “watch the band march through the parade and dream about being a part of it” when she was younger.

It’s a rare event the entire family can enjoy, with a little something for everyone. You will find homemade pie and ice cream, food vendors, carnival rides, talent shows, parades, arts and crafts vendors, horseshoe and volleyball tournaments, and (of course)…fireworks.

Slater’s Independence Day Celebration is better than a football tailgate because everyone’s on board for the same cause: to pump their fists for America’s freedom. There are no enemy lines, no taunts, no rivalries, no hurt feelings and no losers when it comes to this party. Everyone wears the same team colors of red, white and blue.

You’d be hard-pressed to find another small town that celebrates the Fourth of July better than Slater, Iowa. Good luck finding a big town that does it better, for that matter. Now that the dust has settled and the town gets back to life as normal, the summer will soon wane into fall. If you didn’t get to participate in Slater’s Independence Day Celebration’s tailgate experience, you’re in luck — the college football season is less than eight weeks away.