By John Braden Members of the Heart of America Barbershop Chorus infiltrated the courthouse square in Independence Sept. 3 blending into the Santa-Cali-Gon festival crowd until Director Carter Combs cued them to assemble as a flash mob at the northwest corner of the square. Leads Tom Hadley and John Braden launched into “Ra da da da da…” drawing the group in to perform “Muskrat Ramble” in a surprise to festival passersby. They followed that up with “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” then dispersed in different directions (in case somebody called the cops).
The 18 chorus members, dressed mostly in non-matching HOA shirts, faded away until they pulled the same stunt at the southwest corner, with “Muskrat” and “When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along.” The final mob came at the new Uptown Market building, a block off the square with “Muskrat” again and “A Wink and a Smile.” Chapter fliers and Holiday Harmony Spectacular notices were distributed to the impromptu crowds and many favorable comments were received. The entire event took place on the area’s first comfortable sunny day in weeks. Part of the gang then reassembled at Three Trails Brewing on the east side of the square for exotic beers, flatbread pizza and sandwiches. Four of the guys, Carter Combs, John Braden, Bob Velazquez and Eric Weber, were uncharacteristically late to the bar. First, they stopped by the “Main Street 1849,” event where they crashed a mustache and beard-growing contest, as the quartet Swing Shift singing Stephen Foster’s “If You’ve Only Got a Moustache.” Swing Shift got in one last mini-flash mob, singing “Hi, Neighbor” to John’s actual neighbor, Independence motorcycle cop Evan Bateman, on duty on the square. This was the 50th consecutive year for Santa-Cali-Gon’s celebration of Independence as the jumping-off point for the three westward trails, Santa Fe, Overland and Oregon. The festival has drawn up to 300,000 people over Labor Day weekend.