Last week someone asked, “Why is it called the Forks Old Fashioned 4th of July?”
So I went to find out, in the Forks Forum archives and with a couple Facebook messages.
Before the turn of the century, the few inhabitants on the Forks prairie had a dance and people came out of the woods — literally — from all around the prairie and as far away as Port Crescent, to celebrate Independence Day. There was always music, food and a flag. It was old-fashioned because it was the olden days, but the celebration had no official name.
As the early 1900s came around, the Forks Fourth incorporated the communities of Mora and La Push. There were canoe races and a parade on the river, horse races and a picnic at Forks. Later on, baseball games were organized.
It was at one of those baseball games in 1928 that a batch of home brew was strategically located at first base. Since this was smack dab in the middle of prohibition one must assume it was used for medicinal purposes such as sore muscles. After a lot of medication the outfield could no longer catch the ball and the batters, if they did make a hit, had a hard time making it to first base. No mention of “Old Fashioned” in the 1920s, however.
In 1939, some business people and the American Legion put together the first organized celebration. The one-day event on the Fourth included baseball, a parade, motorcycle climbs at Fern Hill, children’s games, boxing and a dance.
During the war years, the celebration was scaled back. Children’s races and a dance were the highlights. Townspeople were informed that fireworks sales were banned and events were given patriotic names like “War Bond Athletic Carnaval” and “War Bond Independence Day Dance.”
After the war, the celebration began to grow again. Bruce Thomas remembered, “Bob Rosmond, who was from Oakville, was instrumental in bringing the modern day 4th after the war. I am not sure how many years the 4th was celebrated in Oakville.”
Bruce also shared how hard his dad, Russ Thomas, worked to help make the celebration what it is today.
Still, it was not yet called the Old Fashioned Fourth.
The 1950s really saw the celebration grow, with a logging show and horse competition added. A queen contest, barrel float, beard growing contest, catch ‘em and keep ‘em greased pig contest and the parade and the fireworks display were expanded. Still, no Old Fashioned Fourth mentioned in the 1950s.
In 1965, the Forks Fourth expanded to a three-day event. A demolition derby and tourist of the day were added and the barrel float was brought back. You could even buy a ticket to win a new Ford pick-up.
And then there it was in 1968: a newcomer to town, radio station owner Gordon Otos, was the chairman that year and a huge banner was placed across Highway 101 saying, “Welcome to Forks Old Fashioned 4th of July.”
So I would have to say that 1968 was the first year that term was “officially” used, and Gordon seems a likely person to have coined it.
There have been some changes over the years: the greased pig contest, beard contest and logging show are gone, as well as the Hangar Dance at the Quillayute Airbase. The statute of limitations has probably expired on things that happened there.
Then there was the Bicentennial street riot and the time law enforcement selected the tourist of the day and found they had an outstanding warrant for their arrest. And certainly, the weather plays a role in the Forks Fourth. Everyone knows summer starts July 5.
Over the years, horseshoes, cribbage and Moonlight Madness have been added. The Lion’s Club salmon bake continues to be a hit. Do you remember when the parade used to go the opposite direction and end up at the school grounds?
The Forks Old Fashioned Fourth has survived.
What is your favorite Forks Old Fashioned Fourth of July memory?