COEUR d'ALENE - They came out in droves. Thousands upon thousands, clogging the sidewalks of Sherman Avenue for blocks, sunscreen thick and tiny flags waving.
Some attended Coeur d'Alene's Fourth of July parade to give a solemn nod to those in uniform, others to cheer on friends in a slew of bands, cheerleading squads and nonprofits.
Some just craved a wave from Batman.
All worth the traffic, said Hayden couple Pam and Rob Hadacek.
"This is the best Fourth of July parade we've ever seen," Pam said.
"And we've seen 67 years worth of parades," said Rob, an Army veteran.
Rob respected how every branch of the armed forces was featured, he said, adding that the Fourth is when he appreciates "the sacrifices that have allowed us to do this."
And there's just a strong bond between onlookers and those marching in the city's parade, he said.
"It's the same feeling we got going to the rodeo last year. There was a prayer and two national anthems," he said. "The main thing is the patriotic theme."
Jon Larson of Coeur d'Alene said his family has flown in for years to catch the parade.
"We've gone from six of us kids to extended family of 25. We section off a large piece of concrete," Larson said as he lifted his toddler son. "We really like the armed forces (veterans). It's a good thing to teach our kids about."
Service men and women did get their fair shake in the parade, with former POWs and the Marine Corps League included in the long line of veterans. The Kootenai County Republicans had members pose to reenact the famous photo of soldiers hefting the U.S. flag at Iwo Jima.
Alex Besch, retired from the Army after 20 years and two tours in Iraq, said he was glad to see the recognition.
"That's a good thing, especially with today's society," the Post Falls man said, adding that citizens should "be proud of your country and give back to your country when you can."
There were still more highlights in the two-hour parade.
Spectators clapped and hooted for the Perfection Nots community band and the Blazen Divas. Folks craned for a peek of Timberlake and Coeur d'Alene high schools' cheerleaders vaulting through the air, and Inland Empire Gymnastics men flipping from the company van.
Actors from The Coeur d'Alene Resort's pirate cruise battled with swords in the street.
Denise Haskin of Coeur d'Alene said it was tough to sit on the sidelines after performing with the Blazen Divas for years.
"Just the healthiness of women being with women and bringing joy to my town, watching people laugh and get excited in the streets," Haskin explained. "(The parade) just brings out the wholesomeness of Coeur d'Alene."
Adults and children scurried to collect a fist bump from Batman as he rolled past in the Batmobile.
Lyn LaPlante confessed that's why she brought her 4-year-old grandson.
"He's got Batman shoes on and everything," the Coeur d'Alene woman said.
Most in the crowd planned to head to the chamber's fireworks display later that night, and clowns meandered through to continue collecting donations for the event.
Vicky-Jo Carey, who performed with Fossil Rock in a pre-parade show, said the city's Independence Day activities draw so many because there's strong local participation.
"It's still a hometown atmosphere," the Post Falls woman said.
Dancing in the streets was exhausting, she added, especially in Wednesday's muggy heat.
"All of the marching bands and groups, I give them credit," Carey said. "It's hard to do, but they get out there with smiles."
SHAWN GUST/Press Jake Bussey, an airman with the United States Air Force Civil Air Patrol, leads other cadets in displaying a massive American flag during the Fourth of July parade.
SHAWN GUST/Press Ryan Lewis is silhouetted as watches the neighborhood fireworks show from his rooftop Wednesday in Coeur d'Alene.
SHAWN GUST/Press Harley Bolstad, 2, of Post Falls, makes herself comfortable on the hot pavement while waiting for the parade to begin.
SHAWN GUST/Press The Perfection Nots, volunteer community band, is reflected in a musicians French horn.
SHAWN GUST/Press Pepper, an 11-year-old dachshund, happily parades in front of thousands in celebration of Independence Day.
SHAWN GUST/Press Tyler Petticolas, 16, sprays the crowd with a water blaster during the Fourth of July parade in downtown Coeur d'Alene.
JEROME A. POLLOS/Press Diane Nowoj and her granddaughter Natalie Wyant, 4, watch the Fourth of July Kiddie Parade from the corner of Sixth Street and Sherman Avenue.