HAINES — The big show that will brighten the night sky is about seven weeks away, but Garla Rowe already is excited.
Although this year she’s even more enthusiastic about what’s slated to happen on the ground in Haines on the Fourth of July.
Rowe, who is with Friends of Haines, the group that organizes the annual holiday celebration in the town 10 miles north of Baker City, said the cowboy breakfast, parade, arts festival and other events that for decades have been part of Haines’ Independence Day festivities are scheduled to return this year.
Those events were canceled due to the pandemic in 2020.
“I’m really excited for the Fourth this year,” Rowe said on Tuesday, May 18, inside her store, Haines Sell-Rite. “I think the community needs to have something positive to celebrate.”
Last year the fireworks illuminated the skies above Haines on the holiday. The community’s other signature seasonal event, the Haines Stampede Rodeo, also took place. Both the fireworks and the rodeo are planned this year as well (the rodeo is a two-day event, July 3-4).
But this year they’ll be joined, as usual, by several other events as part of what the Friends of Haines bills as an “old-fashioned Fourth of July celebration.”
Rowe said the group had hoped to have events in the city park as in the past. But so long as the state continues to have restrictions in place on gatherings, the city can’t allow events on city property, Haines Mayor Jim Brown said.
Brown said the city’s insurance policy requires the city comply with those regulations.
“It’s totally a liability issue,” he said.
That also was the case in 2020, and it’s the reason the Friends of Haines didn’t have events in the city park. But rather than cancel the festivities that precede the fireworks show, Rowe said Friends of Haines looked for other options for this summer.
“We just decided that we’re going to do it on private property,” Rowe said.
Most events on the Fourth, which is a Sunday, will take place on the east side of Front Street, the main street through Haines. The Haines Art Festival will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the grassy area just north of the Haines Sell-Rite. The fireworks show starts at 10 p.m. from its usual location near the rodeo grounds.
• Cowboy breakfast, 7-10 a.m. at the Elkhorn Grange, 925 Third St.
• National anthem, performed by Steffi Carter, 10 a.m.; Carter will sing from the balcony at the Haines Sell-Rite.
• Parade starting at 10 a.m.
• Barbecue fundraiser for the Mabry James Anders Memorial Fund, 11 a.m., with music by Barefoot and Bonafide.
Although Rowe noted the schedule is “subject to change,” depending on the progress of the pandemic, she’s optimistic with case rates declining in Baker County there won’t be any problems.
Rowe said she thinks it’s vital this year Haines has all its usual Independence Day events rather than only the fireworks show. She said she worries that if the full slate of events is canceled two straight years, local residents will lose interest and get used to making other plans on the holiday.
“We don’t want to see it die,” Rowe said. “I feel if we don’t pull it off this year, we’re going to start losing participation. That’s one reason I wanted to work so hard to get it back going.”
Rowe said she believes many Haines area residents were concerned about COVID-19 a year ago, with the holiday happening little more than three months after the virus became widespread in Oregon and the nation, and their worries largely tempered their disappointment about popular events being canceled. But she said the sentiment is quite different this year, with many people eager to enjoy a more typical summer.
Although the Friends of Haines was able to put on the 2020 fireworks show, the group had to cancel its major fundraiser, the May steak dinner and auction. That event brings in most of the money for the fireworks show, Rowe said.
“We put $10,000 worth of fireworks up in the air,” she said.
The group had enough money to put down a deposit for fireworks last fall for the 2021 show. But donations are more crucial than ever, Rowe said. To that end, the Friends of Haines has multiple ways for people to contribute, including online accounts at GoFundMe and Venmo.
Donations also can be dropped off at Haines Sell-Rite or the Main Frontier restaurant in Haines, or at the Main Event in Baker City, Rowe said.
Rowe said Kari Raffety, who owns the Main Frontier, which opened on Front Street in February, has offered space for Fourth of July events and has supported the Friends of Haines’ plans.