Parades, fireworks and appearances by costumed Uncle Sams have been staples of July Fourth celebrations for decades. The Wood River Valley is no exception, feting the nation's birth in celebrations that ran for days.
More than 100 years ago, the community threw its doors open for the holiday.
The stage was set for a rollicking time in Hailey, where saloons, hotels and lodging houses were kept open, and "contrary to custom, even the stores and barber shops were open all day Sunday [July 3] and until midnight every night," according to the July 6, 1898, edition of Hailey's Times-News-Miner.
A parade through downtown Hailey that year featured a "Liberty" car, or carriage, filled with people dressed as a goddess, Uncle Sam, Cuba and other representatives of freedom—or those longing for freedom. The United States was engaged in the Spanish-American War, which resulted later that year in the withdrawal of Spanish forces from Cuba and Cuba's independence four years later.
Parade spectators also witnessed "young ladies on horseback," as well as the Hailey cornet band, bicyclists and other ambulatory entertainment.
For the first time since 1886, the Miners' Union marched in the parade. People from as far as Smokey, identified as 45 miles away, and from Challis attended, along with an "unusual" number of locals who turned out.
"Literary and musical exercises" followed at the courthouse.
At the conclusion of an oration, a guest of honor called for "three cheers for all our heroes on land and sea—whether they wear shoulder-straps or carry the musket!" the Times-News-Miner recounted.
A "match game" of baseball that afternoon brought together teams from Hailey and Boise for a state championship.
"During the first innings it looked as if Hailey would be waxed," the paper reported.
But the home team rallied, registering a win for the locals.
Sporting events continued that afternoon at the horse track. The winner of a 600-yard race took home $40, according to the Times-News-Miner, with $10 going to second place.
Bicycle, wheelbarrow, foot races and throwing hammer competitions ensured that a variety of people could test their abilities in spirited contests.
Flags flew and love of country was expressed profusely.
"Incentives to patriotic feeling and display were not wanting," the paper stated.
A ball at Alturas Hotel was so popular that the Times-News-Miner opined on July 6 that it was "much too crowded for comfort. But the supper was very fine."
That year, the paper also revealed, "there were many fine and expensive private displays of fireworks, but no public pyrotechnics."
The event was so grand, and so befitting the town, that the paper proclaimed, "Hailey seems herself again."
Patriotism, parties roaring in the 1920s
In 1923, with World War I over and the Great Depression years off, valley residents planned for a Fourth of July blowout.
The headline event was a visit and speech by Sen. William E. Borah, R-Idaho.
"This address by Senator Borah, added to the many other great features, is taken to mean that Hailey this year will have the greatest celebration in her entire history, and one of the greatest celebrations in the entire west," boasted the Times-News-Miner on June 21, 1923.
A parade, sporting events, "athletic stunts," concerts and "lots of novelties" would greet revelers, the paper ensured.
Everyone was "sure to have a good time" at dances at the Hailey Opera House, held July 3, 4 and 5.
A frontier roundup at the fairgrounds brought Wild West cowboys, "bull-dogging," "broncho busting" and a "whirlwind of fun."
"Street sports" included a Ford stock car race, which required participants to "start with motor running, run one block, stop car and engine, get out and crank up, run to intersection of next block, stop as before, crank up and finish."
The winning effort netted $15.
The newspaper was less descriptive of the Ford potato race, but the winner also got $15.
A pie eating contest could earn the voracious $5.
Tourism spiked that long weekend, and businesses took the opportunity to cater to visitors' needs.
D.A. Jones & Co. took out an ad in the Times-News-Miner on June 28, 1923, luring out-of-towners to the Bellevue drug store for ice cream soda and sundaes that were "famous with the traveling public."
In the same issue, Jacobs' Variety Store billed itself as the place to buy flags, balloons, squawkers, horns, pistols and fireworks.
The J.C. Fox department store advertised Fourth of July values, including specials on summer millinery and summer frocks.
Locals were invited by Brownell Bros. Co. to buy a new lawnmower to "doll up your place for the 4th."
Those with extra space in their homes were encouraged to contact S.L. George, who would help rent them to visitors.
In the July 5 debriefing, the Times-News-Miner reported that a "mighty crowd" assembled, enjoying "good sport, inspiring music and freedom from mishaps."
The following year, the newspaper proclaimed that Hailey again would put on the biggest celebration it ever attempted, complete with baseball games, a military band, horse, foot and "novelty" races and fireworks.
"Take the 'Hailey Way' Trail," the paper urged, "and combine this real old-fashioned jollification with a few days' fishing and camping out in some of the coolest and most inviting mountain and stream beauty spots in Idaho."
Rebecca Meany: firstname.lastname@example.org