Fourth of July festivities mostly kid stuff |

Fourth of July festivities mostly kid stuff

Post Independent Photo/Jim Noelker

Yellowstone’s Old Faithful geyser brings smiles to folks 365 days a year.

At Apple Tree Park in New Castle, Old Faceful puts watery smiles on kid’s faces once a year – the Fourth of July.

“We started doing this last year,” said Old Faceful attendant Henry Hendrickson, as he twisted the heavy valve that sent a dozen spouts of water arcing through the air and splashing down on squealing kids. “We had to have a water thing.”

Kids in New Castle, Glenwood Springs and Carbondale were treated to Fourth of July action that included sack races, a parade, a kite flying contest and more.

All in all, there were almost enough activities to wear out kids enough to keep them from asking, “When do the fireworks start?”

The day started early in Carbondale, when the Umpteenth Annual Kids’ Parade started more or less at 9:38 a.m. Most of the 300 to 400 spectators lined the shady side of Main Street because the temperature had already climbed to a warm 80 degrees, and it wouldn’t start to cool down until late in the afternoon, when Cabaret Diosa started setting up for the evening’s show in Sopris Park.

A restored red fire truck led off the 20-minute parade and a new one brought up the rear. The restored truck’s siren announced the parade’s start, and was barely startling enough to shoo a herd of cattle off a county road. The new truck’s chirp was loud enough to pierce lead.

Kids, from toddlers to middle schoolers, flooded Main Street in waves. They came on bikes, with and without training wheels, on rollerblades, with and without American flags to wave, on foot, in parent-pushed wagons and driving miniature electric SUVs.

Cub Scout Pack 235, at least 10 Cubs strong, each decked out in a blue uniform, yellow kerchief, and toting miniature American flags, lead the parade.

Then the first of several well-timed gaps created space for a small but enthusiastic Carbondale Middle School drum corps.

The Carbondale girls softball team looked smart in their blue pants and white tops.

A well behaved grouping of dogs included a basset, a Corgi, a dachshund, a terrier and pretty old golden retriever. A white Great Dane, with green and pink spots to complement his pre-existing black spots, accompanied his owners a safe distance behind the major dog group.

One woman pedaling a tandem bike with her daughter trailing behind blew on a kazoo secured in her pursed lips, although it was difficult to make out the song.

One of youngest paraders peered straight ahead from a mom-pulled Radio Flyer wagon with a “What the heck is going on?” look on his face.

Foster Gross, 8, watched the whole parade from four feet up a light pole in front of his father’s Crystal River Marketplace information center. When asked what he thought of the parade when it was over, Gross thought for a second, then replied, “Is this going to be in the paper?” His father just laughed.

Another 8-year-old, Tripp Axtell, also chose his words carefully after taking part in the parade with the Cub Scouts. When asked what he liked best about the parade, Axtell said, “The marching.”

Beth Fawley, 4, and her father, Curtis Fawley, sat on the curb and watched the parade near Fourth and Main Street. Beth wore a lime green dress, purple sandals with red socks, a straw hat, sunglasses and carried a woolen purse. Curtis sported a blue ball cap. As soon as the parade passed their spot, Beth waved her dad through the crowd at the telephone building plaza, urging him to “Come this way.”

When the fast-walking duo hit the outskirts of Sopris Park, they slowed enough for Curtis to report that they’d seen the parade last year.

“This is the next parade,” Beth interjected. Her brother, Keegan, another Cub Scout, was headed to up Redstone to march in its parade.

“He’s 8 years old,” Beth stated. “My mom’s in the parade. I don’t know how old she is.”

Curtis looked down at his daughter and said, “It’s a big day,” as Beth scooted off to the playground equipment.

It seemed like most of the parade entrants and then some made it to Sopris Park for the rest of the morning’s activities.

The park program started with patriotic songs from the Ben Reed Memorial Gazebo. While this was going on, kids slurped down watermelon and drew chalk art pictures of what America means to them. Co-organizer Annie Runyan-Worley climbed on stage and explained the contest.

“If America means a sunflower, draw a sunflower. … If it’s kids holding hands, draw kids holding hands,” she suggested.

More than a dozen pieces of kid art were already lined up in front of the Gazebo when Worley made her announcement.

“We’ve got a lot of American flags,” Worley said as she checked on the artists’ creative progress.

After Worley’s announcement, co-organizer Chris Chacos, in a red, white and blue Dixieland hat, stood up to the microphone. In a hoarse voice because something’s going around, he shouted, “It’s sack race time!”

Names and winning times of the sack races were not available at press time, but the fastest racer in the first heat was the tallest, a 9-year-old girl, who covered the 20-yard course in 27 hops.

As the sack races continued, stage announcer Lisen Gustasson invited everyone over to come over and listen to a patriotic reading of the Declaration of Independence, scheduled to begin “in about 20 seconds.”

As kids and parents settled around the front of the gazebo, 10 narrators huddled at the back the stage, and went over their lines either one last time, or one first time.

Chacos introduced the 10 narrators, and their hometowns or titles: Susie Evans of Glenwood Springs, “friendly librarian” Marilyn Murphy, Barb Snobble of Carbondale, Honorable Mayor Michael Hassig, Monk Berkmier, Dick Allenby, “a visitor from out of town,” Jeffrey Evans of Redstone, Virgil Leeman, “a Marble veteran,” veteran Jim Foster, 10th Mountain Division veteran John Tripp and Annie Runyan-Worley.

One by one, the narrators solemnly told of the events leading up to the Revolutionary War, the personal price paid by many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and read selections from the document.

Hassig concluded the reading by telling the audience the signers valued liberty more than riches or security, and reminded everyone, “Freedom is never free.”

Chacos then stepped to the microphone and shouted, “Let the games begin again!”

As kids dispersed back into the park, Runyan-Worley told them, “Have fun, and say thanks for your independence.”

At Apple Tree Park, on the south side of the Colorado River in New Castle, 44 miniature American flags were planted at 10 foot intervals on the split-rail fence that runs along County Road 335. Another 13 flags flapped in the breeze from the fence that leads into the park’s parking lot.

It was the 24th Annual Apple Tree Park Freedom Celebration, put on by the Talbott family and Talbott Enterprises employees, who were volunteering their time.

“The pay’s bad and the hours are long, but we don’t have far to drive,” said smiling Old Faceful attendant Hendrickson, as he kept an eye on the splashing kids.

The celebration’s printed program started with a Bible verse from II Chronicles 7:14, which reads, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from Heaven and will heal their land.”

Apple Tree Park is a two-acre patch of thick, green grass, circled with mature and adolescent elm trees, with picnic tables, swings, a concrete basketball court and a softball field.

The day’s activities started with Cub Scout Pack 221 raising the flag at noon. By 1 p.m., bare-chested middle-school-age boys were soaked, running around shooting squirt guns at each other and the occasional adult.

Scattered around the park were places for the Hula Hoop relay race, three-legged race and water-balloon relay. Under the blue-and-white, open-sided tent, kids games included a ring toss and bean bag toss.

Even with the inflated Camelot Castle, which kids could bounce around on, the biggest attraction appeared to be Old Faceful.

Old Faceful is not a naturally occurring phenomenon. It’s a 50-foot length of gated irrigation pipe, 4 to 6 inches in diameter, attached to a pipeline from the Colorado River. Water spurts from the pipe’s dozen or so slots each time the control valve is twisted.

It’s impossible to determine how many gallons per minute Old Faceful pumps out, but it attracted about 10 kids every 30 seconds. As water cascaded off the kids and onto the grass, it flooded a section of park, which created ideal conditions for stomping, sliding and splashing around in.

Hendrickson only left the value open for a minute or two for each of Old Faceful’s numerous eruptions.

After one such outburst, volunteer Martha Smith brought over a folding chair from the watermelon contest (7-year-old division) and asked Hendrickson to have Old Faceful wash it off.

“A little kid peed on it,” Smith said.

As her chair was drying off, Smith said she has been volunteering for 15 years. Events vary from year to year. Until a year or two ago, there used to be a lawn mower and vacuum cleaner toss for adults who were frustrated either by their domestic duties or their equipment’s performance.

“But that got to be a little dangerous,” Smith said. “We had to quit it for liability reasons.”

Through the afternoon, organizer Russell Talbott announced games such as the Watermelon Woof, new this year.

“Last year we had a parfait slurp, and the year before that a pie eating contest,” Talbott said. “We try to add something every year.”

The Watermelon Woof involved kids eating a slice of watermelon, spitting seeds into a Styrofoam bowl as they chewed. At first, the rules called for the winner to spit 15 seeds, but halfway through the first round, and at the urging of a mom who asked, “What if their piece doesn’t have that many seeds?” Talbott dropped the number to 10.

“He’s got 10,” shouted Rhonda Simpson, as her son, Ryan, hit the bowl with his last seed.

“Here’s the winner,” Talbott said, as he pointed to Ryan. “You win a squirt gun.”

After the Watermelon Woof, Talbott took a short break on a stage that was later scheduled to hold the 2002 Miss Burning Mountain royalty, Shonna Partain and the Western Slope Cloggers, the New Hope Praise Band and the Hard Times bluegrass band from Grand Junction.

The day’s festivities ended with fireworks, shot off from the hillside just south of the park.

At Two Rivers Park in Glenwood Springs, more than 500 kids and parents turned out for the Friday evening celebration. There was a pie-eating contest, watermelon spitting, corn shucking, tug-of-war, inflatable obstacle course, kite flying and more.

“The kites stood out the most,” said event organizer Kathleen Milbrath. “We must have given out 100 kite kits for kids to put together. The kites really made the program.”

Last year’s celebration was held at the Glenwood Springs Community Center, but the city’s parks and recreation department moved it to Two Rivers Park this year to make room for more outdoor activities.

“The park is a good venue,” said Milbrath. “The grass is so green. … With the covered tents, barbecue, cotton candy and blow-up inflatables, the park flows really well.”

Milbrath said, “tons” of prizes were given out, including red, white and blue sunglasses.

Skippy the Clown was another big hit. “She stayed an hour longer than she was originally scheduled to,” Milbrath said.

Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534

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