The Forks Old-Fashioned Fourth of July celebration is under way! How did Forks come to host this event as it is known today? How has it changed and how has it been able to survive for 120 years?
Well, 120 years may be stretching it a bit but in an interview in 1970, Elma Mae Peterson Good remembered the few people that inhabited the Forks area getting together for a picnic and music around 1890. As the years went on she recalled that a dance was added 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.
As the early 1900s came around the Forks Fourth incorporated the communities of Mora and LaPush. There were canoe races and a parade on the river and then horse races and a picnic at Forks. Later on baseball games were organized.
It was at one of those baseball games in 1928 that 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. 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.
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, motor cycle 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 highlight. Towns people were informed that fireworks sales were banned and events were given patriotic names like “War Bond Athletic Carnival” and “War Bond Independence Day Dance.”
After the war the celebration began to grow again. 1947 saw a new addition, an air show and a bomb dropping contest. The 1950s really saw the celebration grow. Logging shows and horse competition were 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.
In 1965 the Forks Fourth expanded to a three-day event. A demolition derby and tourist of the day were added. After a few years absence the barrel float was brought back. You could even buy a ticket to win a shiny new Ford pickup.
Of course, there have been some changes over the years — the greased pig contest and the beard contest are gone, as well as the Hangar Dance at the Quillayute Airbase. The statute of limitations probably has 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.
In recent years horseshoes, cribbage and Moonlight Madness have been added. The Lions 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 Fourth has survived thanks to volunteers. Even though the events may change one thing remains the same, each year volunteers step up and put on this celebration. Thanks to all you make it happen and have a great Fourth of July!