How has Walla Walla celebrated Fourth of July over its long history? | Lifestyles

This year, Walla Walla will celebrate America’s independence with the traditional, family-friendly Fourth of July in the Park celebration.

The free, day-long event takes over historic Pioneer Park from 10 am to 5 pm and includes local music, entertainment, arts and crafts, food trucks, as well as local businesses, community service clubs, emergency responders, political candidates and more.

This popular event, created and organized annually by the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, has been a yearly celebration (with the exception of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic) since 1976, the year of the bicentennial.

Although this is a recent event, as far as history goes, it is just the latest in Fourth of July events in Walla Walla.

Over its history, the city has celebrated the Fourth of July in a number of ways. What may have been the first Fourth of July parade that we can identify happened on July 4, 1864.

The firemen’s parade, described in the Walla Walla Statesman July 1, 1864, indicated the parade would march down Main Street. It was followed by picnics, the Brass Band and for those who love to “trip the light fantastic toe,” the Firemen’s Ball that evening.







“Fantastic Paralyzers” program and parade, July 4,1885.




In 1885, a rather unusual and inexplicable parade, dubbed the “Grand Spectacular Parade of the Ancient and Mystic Order of Fantastic Paralyzers” was followed by games and sport, concerts and a grand ball.

A 1912 parade featured a Curtis “flying machine” and a “Chinese serpent writhing” along the parade route.

Subsequent Fourth of July parades were a regular feature of the holiday, and special events extending the Fourth of July celebration often accompanied the festivities.







Fourth of July events, 1916

Fourth of July events, 1916.




On July 12, 1915, a special train transporting the iconic Liberty Bell pulled into the Northern Pacific station in Walla Walla for a brief visit, touted as the “Greatest Patriotic Event in History of City.” On the evening of the 12th, it was estimated that 15,000 people came to see the bell from 9:45 pm to midnight, when the train left for Spokane.

However, a side note to the visit was an account in the newspaper that decried the “First Act of Vandals,” recounting an event between Pendleton and Walla Walla that involved three boys throwing rocks at the bell. it squarely. The bell rang out its protest, but apparently was not injured. ”







Fourth of July events, July 1929

Fourth of July events, July 1929.










Fourth of July program, May 1930

Fourth of July program, May 1930.




Fourth of July parades ceased after 1941, as the country coped with World War II. After the war, Walla Walla celebrated the Fourth with a number of different events, including a 1944 celebration at Borleske Stadium featuring the Army Air Field Band and an air show at the airfield in 1948 sponsored by the Jaycees.

In 1964, the Kiwanis Club’s FunFair at Borleske Stadium featured a track and field competition, the Whirlwinds Baton and Drum Corps, a barbecue, and a Polynesian Pageant Revue. The day was capped off with fireworks. Claude Gray, reporting for the Union-Bulletin , remarked that it “will be the first organized effort at a community program in several decades here.”

Despite the enthusiastic response to these events, a 1968 article in the Union-Bulletin listing the various celebrations in the Valley, did not include any events in Walla Walla.

In 1976, Walla Walla went all out on celebrating the nation’s bicentennial and festivities included an “Old Fashioned Fourth of July in Pioneer Park,” organized by the Union-Bulletin’s publisher at the time. The success of the event in Pioneer Park led to the celebration becoming a permanent attraction on the Fourth.







Cover of the Trails West drama program

Cover of the “Trails West” drama program, which was put on at the Fort Walla Walla Amphitheater in 1976-77.




The history-based play “Trails West,” written by local historian and writer Bill Gulick, was also featured in “the new amphitheater at Fort Walla Walla Park, and opened July 1, just in time for the holiday.”

The play, commissioned by Walla Walla Outdoor Drama was originally intended to be about Marcus and Narcissa Whitman. But Gulick convinced the committee to be more inclusive, suggesting that the drama span the period between the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805 up to the 1855 Treaties with the tribes.

As the program notes: “Within this larger frame, the story of why the missionaries came could be told, the conflict between the red (sic) man and white man could be shown, and the results of the tragedy at the Whitman Mission could be detected. ””

We hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane, a potpourri of Fourth of July celebrations past. Have a happy and safe holiday!







July 4, 1908 parade

July 4, 1908, parade on Alder Street passing the war memorial.










Parade and fire engine steamer

Parade and fire engine steamer, Walla Walla, July 4, 1908.




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