In July 2000, to celebrate 150 years of the parade, the theme was “Mom, Dad, and Apple Pie” to express patriotism, nostalgia, and traditional family values. Governor George W. Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, and Commanding General III Corps and Fort Hood, Leon LaPorte, were the parade marshals. Governor Bush and General LaPorte spoke briefly at the patriotic program prior to the parade.
In 1982 the parade made its first appearance on television with a live broadcast from the courthouse lawn, thanks to KCEN-TV. Today the parade is also live-streamed on the internet. It gained national attention in 2008 when USA Today named Belton’s 4th of July Parade as one of the country’s “Top Ten Places to Fly Your Flag on the 4th.”
The rodeo became a part of the celebration in 1924. Originially the rodeo was a one-day event with ten entries in each event and held at the football field on South Penelope between East Avenues C and E. According to Berneta Peeples, the bucking broncos were rented, and it was advertised that anyone who had a wild horse that needed to be saddle-broke was welcome to bring it. One year, a horse suffered from heat exhaustion and died. The Chamber of Commerce used all of the rodeo profits to pay for it. The cattle were purchased just for the rodeo and later sold at a reduced price. By the 1930s, the event moved to the football field at Confederate Park, and the Belton rodeo became a member of the Cowboys Turtle Association (later the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association). The rodeo was a very popular event, and following World War II, the Chamber of Commerce built a new rodeo arena in Confederate Park. Over the years as attendance at the rodeo increased, it was moved to the Bell County Expo Center in order to accommodate the large crowds.
In the 1990s Marvin Crow wrote a column for the Belton Journal entitled Crow's Cafe in which he reminisced about days gone by. At one time Crow's Cafe was part of the Greyhound Bus Station located near the post office. Crow told of one Independence Day celebration during the war that was rather humorous. When the parade started, the employees of Crow's stood in the street and watched the parade until the horses came down the hill. Then they went inside the cafe and began cooking hamburgers and chicken fried steak. During the war each Greyhound Bus schedule had five buses. All the buses had to stop outside town until the parade was over; then, within five minutes of each other, all ten buses rolled in to the bus station. All the buses were full with as many as 50 passengers per bus. Crow's special, The Best 35 Cent Dinner in Texas was in demand as well as restrooms at all the nearby gas stations!