1976 marked the 200th birthday of our great nation, The United States of America. All around the country, towns and cities alike were finding creative ways to celebrate our nation’s history, values and vision for our future.
Maupin is a little town in Oregon, east of Mt. Hood. Running through it is the Deschutes River, boasting trout and salmon galore. If you go there today you will see numerous fishing and boating businesses. Rafting the river and chuting the chutes brings in a large amount of tourists, as does the fly fishing and sheer beauty of the flats.
But in 1976, Maupin was a sleepy little place. The timber mill was it’s largest industry. There was a postage-stamp size postal office, a general store, a hardware store and a drug store, where you could still sit at the counter, sipping on an authentic cherry cola from the fountain. There were two churches and one bar. When you were finished at one, you’d go to the other. Everyone knew everyone, and mostly that was good.
On June 20 of 1976, Maupin joined forces with 4 other small towns in South Wasco County and together, without the help from any local or federal funding, they put on the largest birthday party anyone had seen. Along with people from Wamic, Tygh Valley, Pine Grove, Wapinitia and Bakoven, the Maupin folks gathered at the Wasco County Fairgrounds for pie-eating contests, frog and lizard races, local entertainment and a potluck to feed an army. A band, The Quotations, made the 3-hour trip from Portland to play music, too. The Declaration of Independence was read and an address from President Gerald Ford was presented by the co-chairperson of the days events, Lenore Walters.
Oh, but there was so much more! Father’s Day was around the same time so the oldest father was awarded a prize. As was the man with the longest beard and the man with the Best Groomed and Handsome Beard. People young and old dressed in costume, women and girls wearing bonnets and aprons, men donned in knee-britches and caps.
As well, there were honored guests. Oregon Senator, Ken Jernstedt gave the main address, having also enjoyed the activities and the food brought by the women. Wayne Ryan, chairman of the Wasco County Fair Board raised both the Bicentennial flag that was presented by Grant Waheneka from the Warm Springs Indian Reservation and a 5’x9′ flag that had flown over the White House that Congressman, Al Ullman, sent.
American pride, community, family. All were present that day. But perhaps more than anything else, it was the spirit of independence that stood out the most.
Having applied late in the game to be recognized as a Bicentennial community, chair people, Lila Lee Barr and Lenore Walters didn’t have time to get the paperwork in order to receive any financial assistance from the government. So, like their pioneering parents and grandparents before them, they pulled together and raised enough funds donated from local businesses and individuals to offer the day’s events free to all who came. The one exception was beer. Knowing that the state required the selling of alcohol (as opposed to giving it away), event organizers charged a mere 5 cents per cup. And then, with the remaining funds, 4 towns were given $50 each to erect a Bicentennial memorial marker.
For one day, this county, still rich with the traditions of it’s ancestors – those that homesteaded the land, having crossed in covered wagons – went back even further in their heritage and celebrated the birth of their nation and gave thanks for the many sacrifices that had been made along the way.