An explosive celebration: Fourth of July in Northeast Oregon
Whether you prefer to savor great tastes, enjoy live music or watch fireworks light up the sky, Northeast Oregon’s Independence Day activities have something for everyone.
Union County has one major hub for Independence Day celebrations, which is Eastern Oregon University’s Community Stadium in La Grande.
The phrase “community event” applies to the La Grande festivities in every sense of the phrase, according to Fireworks Committee member Steve Combs.
“Several years back, (former Observer publisher) Bob Moody and a few other businessmen got together and decided to keep (the tradition) going,” Combs said.
Since then, a committee of citizens have worked to help the event flourish, while local businesses have helped cover the costs of putting it on.
“This is all done by donations, which goes back to the idea of this being a community celebration,” he said.
There is no admission fee for the activities, so fundraising, raffles and community donations are crucial to putting on a good show.
This year, the committee started a crowdfunding page to raise funds. The page can be viewed at www.gofundme.com/UCfireworks.com.
The celebration can also be described as a “community event” for its appeal to all members of the community. Live music will be provided by I4NI, which has played during the La Grande event before with a slightly different lineup.
“They play Classic rock and some Western,” Combs said. “It’s a good mix, and it’s good music.”
Concessions will also be available and will include burgers, soft drinks and cotton candy.
A group of volunteer firefighters will offer rides in an antique fire truck, Combs said. The firefighters will also be present with water games for children.
The public is welcome to bring blankets, lawn chairs, frisbees, footballs and other forms of outdoor entertainment. Attendees are asked not to bring their dogs to adhere to EOU’s Community Stadium policy.
“I don’t really know why people would want to bring their dogs anyway,” Combs said. “I can’t imagine they like (the loud fireworks).”
Gates at Community Stadium open at 7 p.m., which is when the music starts. The fireworks display will begin after dark. The show is contracted through Western Fireworks
Display, of Canby.
“We always ask that they keep the show itself to 15 minutes,” Combs said.
He said that’s because people begin to lose interest if the display runs too long.
“We’d rather have a whole bunch in the air in a short time, so it all looks like a grand finale,” he said.
Combs also said there will be a raffle, which includes five grand prizes. Goss Motors donated a car, Waldrop Oil donated 100 gallons of fuel, La Grande Gold and Silver donated $1,000 worth of jewelry, Les Schwab donated $500 worth of tire services and Grocery Outlet donated a $300 shopping card.
“Those businesses have been with us many years, and we really could not do all this without sponsors like them,” Combs said.
Fourth of July festivities are spread around every portion of Baker County, offering a variety of experiences from steam-powered train rides, a flea market, a rodeo and, of course, fireworks.
A two-day affair is the annual tradition in Haines, which pairs the Haines Stampede Rodeo (which has roots back to the 1890s) with an old-fashioned day of celebration.
The Stampede begins at 9 a.m. July 3 with slack. Action continues at 5:30 p.m. with Shriners Night, which raises money to support the East-West All-Star Shrine Football game and the Shriners Children’s Hospital in Portland. Admission is $8 adults, $4 kids, and free for ages 5.
“The Shriners come and work our gates. We dedicate any proceeds of that to the Shriners Hospital,” said Colleen Taylor.
Shriners Night has raised about $14,000 over the last five years, which is presented during halftime of the Shrine Game in August.
A new event will be added this year: junior stock saddle bronc riding for ages 9 to 13 — on a Shetland pony.
“It is a hoot,” Taylor said.
Fourth of July in Haines dawns with the Elkhorn Grange Cowboy breakfast from 7-10 a.m. ($7 for ages 13 and older, $5 ages 7 to 10, free for 6 and younger).
Art in the park vendors set up at 9 a.m., and the parade begins at 10 a.m. The barbecue lunch runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., also in the park.
Other activities include the Friends of Haines pie baking contest (entries in at 9 a.m. and sale at 11 a.m.) and the special quilt show at the Eastern Oregon Museum.
The Stampede rodeo action starts up again at 1:30 p.m. Admission is again $8 adults, $4 kids, and free for ages 5. Immediately following the rodeo will be kids games, a free concert by Briana Renea, and a fundraising barbecue for Harvest Church.
The day culminates at dusk with a fireworks display, sponsored by the Friends of Haines.
The Fourth of July celebration in this town starts with a dinner of tri-tip sandwiches at 5:30 p.m., followed by kids games, a pie auction at 8 p.m. and then live music until the fireworks start at dark.
Activities begin at 9 a.m. at Huntington Lions Park, and the parade starts at noon. The day caps off with fireworks at Farewell Bend State Park.
The annual Kiddies Parade is at 9:30 a.m. July 3 at Court Plaza (Main and Court streets in downtown). The parade ends at Geiser Pollman Park with treats and games provided by the Elks Lodge.
The second flea market of the year happens over the Fourth of July weekend in Sumpter, where vendors line the town’s main streets to peddle their wares. Also, the Sumpter Valley Railroad runs June 30, as well as three round trips on July 1 and July 2. For times and fares, visit www.sumptervalleyrailroad.org.
When considering Wallowa County’s Independence Day celebrations, Wallowa City Recorder Carol Long believes “traditional fun” sums up the events.
Wallowa’s Old-Time Fourth of July
The Old-Time Fourth of July is aptly named, according to Long, because the traditions date back to the early 1900s.
“The parade has been going on since about 1910, except for probably a few times during the war years,” Long said. “They used to play baseball and other things, so we like the idea of celebrating that feeling of our hometown community.”
The parade lines up at 10:15 a.m. at Cougars Field. The procession begins at 11 a.m. and follows along Main Street in Wallowa. There is no fee to participate in the parade, but entrants are asked to register in advance so the radio announcer knows what to say. Parade entrant applications are due June 29.
Similarly, there is no fee to set up a vendor booth, but pre-registration is required.
“We have a few so far that I think came in because the flea market in Lostine was disbanded,” Long said.
She said the registered booths include kettle corn, cosmetic sales and face painting stations.
There will also be a raffle and the FFA will sell pie by the slice during the community barbecue. The community barbecue begins at noon at Wallowa Fire Hall.
“Different groups volunteer to do the barbecue each year,” Long said. “This year, it’s the Wallowa Volunteer Fire Department.”
The burger meal costs $6, and the hot dog meal costs $4. Both meals come with homemade potato salad, baked beans and beverages.
Meanwhile, the band No Boundaries will play a variety of music, including Classic rock and soft rock.
Long said the barbecue and music will likely wind down around 2 p.m.
Joseph Mountain Jubilee and Shake the Lake Fireworks
Celebrating its sixth year, the Joseph Mountain Jubilee music festival features four live bands July 4 on the beach at the north end of Wallowa Lake before the free Shake the Lake Fireworks Display.
Starting at 3 p.m. singer-songwriter Joey Carper, of Enterprise, performs an acoustic set followed by the alt-country band “An American Forrest” at 4:30 p.m.
Local legends Janis Carper and Carolyn Lochert combine their talents, weaving folk, blues and jazz together into the duo “Jezebel’s Mother” at 6:15 p.m.
Headlining at 8 p.m. is jimmy bivens with his own brand of bluesy rock and roll.
In years past, the festival has been a conglomeration of bands playing at different venues around Joseph. This year festival organizer Tammy Kruger said she is focusing the Fourth of July celebration and music at the lake to warm up the crowd before the fireworks.
For more information and to help sponsor the festival, visit www.josephmountainjubilee.com.
The Wallowa County Chamber website lists the Shake the Lake Fireworks Display start time as 9 a.m., but fireworks will not begin until dark.