By Christi Baron
Forks Forum Editor
The first reference I could find for the Forks 4th of July tradition of hijacking a traveler and extending good old fashioned Forks hospitality on them was in an article from June of 1959. The story names Clifford Klahn as the first chairman of the “Welcome Tourist” committee under the direction of the Jaycees. The next year committee chair Larry Wagg and Mayor Earl Kennedy offered Dr. and Mrs. Colin Blyth and their two small daughters of Urbana, IL gifts and all that Forks had to offer, and they accepted. A tradition had started.
In 1963 it was a committee of three; Walt Streeter, Fred Cline and Frank LaGambina tasked with stopping a tourist and getting them to stick around for the fun. It took the trio almost three hours to find a winner. With the help of City Marshall Matt Sullivan, Mr. and Mrs. H. M. Blair of Victoria B.C were the guests of honor that year. Tourists from Oregon, California, Utah, Colorado, and Arizona were stopped but due to a shortage of time were unable to accept the honor.
By 1969 the name of the tradition was changed to Tourists of the Day. That year Mr. and Mrs. Roy Anderson of Denver were chosen by State Patrol Trooper John McCauley. McCauley strolled through the Bogachiel State Park and the Andersons were the first to speak to him. The Andersons were traveling with their grandsons and their dog Pix. Their experience was featured in a front page story in the Forks Forum, July 17, 1969. According to the story during the parade they spotted a young local boy in an upper body cast. The Anderson’s grandchildren decided to gift a $25 Forks State Bank savings bond they had received, amongst the other Tourist of the Day gifts, to the boy in the cast. It was also in 1969 that the 1968 Tourists of the Day, Mr. and Mrs. Lechtenberg of Palachios, TX came back, they had so much fun the year before.
So it continued for a few years, local law enforcement would wait to “nab” somebody from out of the area, I think they even pulled people over …then one 4th of July the person they pulled over had a warrant …oops. They really got nabbed.
So the process was changed. No more police pulling people over and the Chamber resorted to going to the motels for potential honorees. Also, I think at some point the “Tourists” started riding in the parade. In the beginning, I think they just sat on the reviewing stand, which was usually located near the Oddfellows Hall.
According to Chamber Director Lissy Andros that is still the way that the tourists are selected. “We contact our local lodging establishments to get candidates that fit the criteria: A couple (preferably) from out of the area, here for several days around 4th of July, and willing to be in the parade to represent tourists,” Andros said.
The old Forks Forums contain many letters to the editor thanking the community for the warm welcome, fun, and gifts these honorees have received. Thanks go to the Chamber and businesses that continue to support this tradition and thanks to whoever the person was that thought of it! Great idea! Except for that one guy with the warrant.