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photoN.G. Williams’ team of six mules pulls a wagonload of what are likely members of the Winthrop Band in one of Winthrop’s early July 4th parades. The year is unknown.

Parade of Fourths
Years of celebrations

Time was when Fourth of July celebrations trumped all other community festivals, and that was true even in the Methow Valley, which wasn’t opened to white settlement until 1886.

There is a written description of the valley’s very first July 4 celebration, in 1891, in J. Lee Fulton’s addendum to Tales of the Trail, by Arabella (Belle) Fulton.

Fulton writes that a flat location was selected for a literary program and barbecue lunch. His father donated a two-year old beef, which was cooked by Tony Wittekamp.

“By the time the program was ready to open almost the entire populace of the valley was in attendance,” Fulton wrote. Patriotic songs were sung, someone read the Declaration of Independence, and there was a patriotic address by
George L. Thompson.

“Mr. Thompson was rather an unusual man with rather above ordinary intelligence, born and reared in Canada,” Fulton wrote. Thompson had been a traveling hardware salesman, which is how he came to the United States. And he had become a citizen.

“While everyone knew George L. had quite a gift of gab, everyone was surprised at his ability to stir up the patriotic emotions of his hearers, and one and all pronounced it fine,” Fulton wrote. He said Thompson’s address could have been titled “The Land of My Adoption.”

photoThis car, which says “Spirit of Winthrop” on one side and “King Hi’s Chariot” on the other, was photographed in 1937 by Ferd Haase during Winthrop’s July 4th parade. It was published the following year on page one of the Methow Valley Journal with the headline: “The King and Royal Family Will Again Lead Parade In Venerable Chariot.” The driver in silk top hat is “King Hi” Miller. Allen Miller is in the passenger seat. The ladies are Barbara Looney, Sylvia Sherter and Berna Allen. The story reported that the Methow received nationwide publicity when this photograph, and another view of the car, were published in the Gilmore Graphic. The Graphic was a publication of the Gilmore Oil Company that was handed out at gas stations, according to an online source.

The 'Crowning Event'

Fulton goes on to say that there were races for boys, girls, men and women, followed by saddle-horse races and then the “crowning event” – the slow horse race.

“Several old ‘plugs’ were entered, and the idea was for the last entry to pass under the rope to have the prize,” Fulton explained. “To prevent jockeying, no one was permitted to ride his own entry, but each was to ride his neighbor’s horse…

“Suddenly, one rider was seen to swerve his horse across in front of his own entry, with the intent, of course, to hold his entry back so it would pass under the rope last. It so happened that a little bad blood existed between these two particular riders and the efforts of the one to obstruct the progress of the other …brought forth expressions that were highly objectionable to the rider in front, who responded in like manner.”

The result was some unexpected fireworks that Fulton described as follows: “…both dismounted in the middle of the race and began to stage a performance not advertised on the program. But this performance was interfered with by Judge Stone, who ran down near the combatants and shouted, ‘I command peace in the name of the law!’ So ended the slow race, likewise the day’s celebration.”

photoThis colorized, tattered postcard of the 1907 Fourth of July parade in Twisp was donated to the Shafer Museum a few years back. It perfectly illustrates Emma Rader Pidcock’s description of the horse-drawn Liberty wagons with the “Goddess of Liberty” sitting up top. She also mentioned that Indians came to the valley for July 4. Here they are marching right behind the Liberty wagon. Photo courtesy Shafer Museum

Liberty Wagons

Local Fourth of July festivities in the early 1900s were described by Emma Rader Pidcock in the June 1969 issue of the Okanogan County Historical Society’s Heritage magazine.

Pidcock wrote: “A highlight in our program was the appearance of a Liberty wagon drawn by four beautiful horses. A lumber construction was mounted on the running gears of a wagon which provided rows of seats. Red, white and blue bunting was draped over the outside edges of the platform. Girls dressed in white, carrying flags, filled up the rows of seats on both sides.

“In front was an elevated seat where the Goddess of Liberty sat (much like a queen who rides on floats of today). One of our popular young ladies was chosen for this honor. I remember when I rode on the Liberty wagon and Jenny Burke was Goddess of Liberty.”

Pidcock also said there were horse races and ball games plus a big dance that night. “ Indians came from other parts and they showed the “white man” their very popular stick game,” she wrote.

A Two-Day Event

The Winthrop Eagle newspaper published on July 8, 1909 carried the story of what turned into a two-day celebration, first in Twisp on July 4 followed by another celebration in the park in Winthrop on July 5.

“…about all the people of the surrounding country with nearly a hundred visitors from Twisp and vicinity, gathered in Winthrop Park to celebrate the day as it was originally intended to be commemorated, every household with a well filled basket with sufficient and more for the neighboring bachelors and visitors, glad hearts, overflowing with hospitality, jovial, yet serene.”

Again the Declaration of Independence was read and there were sporting events. “The roast ox was a great success…The Rebekahs had the best booth on the grounds, and they had the largest hamper, out of which was poured food fit for the gods,” the writer proclaimed. The food included angel food [cake], strawberries and ice cream.

'Bigger and Better'

In 1938, the Methow Valley Journal published a full page ad touting the “Bigger and better 4th of July celebration at Winthrop.”

There were two baseball games that year – the Junior Legion vs. Winthrop Grange and the Carlton Redskins vs. Winthrop. A carnival started at 11 a.m. and ran until 2 a.m. the next morning. There was a concert by the Winthrop High School band, and an afternoon parade led by “The Spirit of Winthrop” with prizes for “best costumed equestrienne” and “best performing mount.”

At 2 p.m. the rodeo started with “the famous Miller-Smith string of bucking horses, bareback riding of both horses and steers” and “other thrilling rodeo events.”

A smoker (boxing matches) took place in the early evening, followed by a dance from 9:30 p.m. until 2 a.m. “in one of the largest dance halls in Okanogan County” and music by the Harmony Kings of Wenatchee.

Admission was 85 cents plus tax. And the whole shebang was “sponsored by the Winthrop High School Boys’ Club to promote tackle football.”

July 4, 2013

The Methow Valley’s July 4 celebration kicks off in Twisp with the annual parade down Glover Street, scheduled to start at 11 a.m., although those who pick a spot early usually find line dancers or other entertainment prior to the official start.

The Methow Arts in the Park festival follows the parade in the Twisp Town Park starting at 11:30 a.m. and continuing until 4:30 p.m. Food, music and activities for kids are planned with the theme ART Sparks Imagination. Admission is $5 to $9.



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