Opinion

Fun Fourth at picnic grounds | Wally's World

Across the Auburn Highway from the Enumclaw Sales barn, on the southwest corner of the intersection of state Route 164 and 228th Avenue Southeast, there’s a stand of fir trees that’s known as the Farmers’ Picnic Grounds. At least that’s what old-timers call it. And not being an especially young fellow, that’s also what I’ve always called it. Early in the last century, the place had wood stoves, wooden tables and benches, a covered dance pavilion and a softball diamond.

The Picnic Grounds and facilities were a staple in community life from 1900 until around 1938. Families from all over the Enumclaw Plateau would crank up their automobiles or ride their horses and converge upon the site to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and holidays. I’m not old enough to remember any of this – I hope that’s obvious! – but older people, many of whom are deceased, used to tell me about the good times.

My mama and daddy were married there in a “public wedding.” I’m not sure about the particulars of this affair. There was some kind of local contest that my mother won and, as a result, she received several gifts from local merchants, who also furnished all the food and beverages for the reception, which must have made my grandfather very happy, owing to the nickels this saved him. My parents exchanged their vows outside, beneath the pavilion.

Apparently, the grandest, most wonderful community event of the entire year was always the annual Fourth of July celebration. Women would cook all day, preparing pies, potato salad and fried chicken for the all-day party. Farmers finished their morning chores and arrived at the picnic before noon, where they’d greet one another, enjoy lunch and perhaps organize a softball game. Children lit firecrackers and blew cans into the air. In the late afternoon, farmers went home for their second milking, then returned for the evening. The Enumclaw town band, under the direction of Judge Robert Montgomery, played far into the night under the pavilion. Though liquor wasn’t officially sanctioned, some fellows still managed to get half plastered.

Today, the Fourth isn’t celebrated at any specific location that attracts the entire town and surrounding countryside, which is understandable given the current size of the region’s population. There’s a public pyrotechnic display – usually at the Expo Center but moved this year to open space near the Boise Creek Sixplex – and it draws a crowd. We also have a small-town, Norman Rockwellian parade down Cole Street and a modest crowd gathers to watch this. But mostly, Independence Day is a backyard-barbecue, family affair – weather permitting – and, of course, there’s certainly nothing wrong with this.

I like to climb onto my roof. From that perch, I have been able to watch the fireworks at the fairgrounds and the awesome displays around the Krain district, including the show put on by my next-door neighbor.

Old Ben Franklin would be quite proud of us. Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

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