Community contributes to Sportsman’s Holiday

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree send-off last November was a true community celebration, which left a lot of people wondering (out loud) if it was a one-and-done, or if that enthusiasm could be carried over to, say, Sportsman’s Holiday.

After this past weekend, we have to say the answer is pretty obvious.

A beefed-up schedule, with some canny planning, resulted in lots of activities for all ages and nearly every taste at Sportsman’s Holiday.

We can’t say the turnout was larger for some of the events, simply because they’d never been held before. But the crowds were as large or larger, compared to recent years, at all of the old stand-bys.

We’ve heard for years from residents who’ve wanted to see more activities. While a return of the boat races, which drew 10- to 15,000 spectators to Foster Lake in the 1970s and ‘80s, may not be on in the offing, there was plenty to keep us occupied this year.

The old standbys – the revived Chips ’n’ Splinters variety show, the Logger Olympics, the Grand Parade, the Sportsman’s Holiday Court Coronation program, the Cut the Gun cruise night and all the sales – weren’t stand-alones this year.

Though perhaps not a full-fledged nausea-inducing carnival, the Town Festival and Kidzone still managed to keep a lot of young people occupied in a positive way. Then organizers added a free country music performance by local boy Trevor Tagle, a free outdoor movie at Sankey Park, some clean comedy, a watermelon eating contest and a return of the stick horse races and the Kiddie Parade.

Add in the K9 Jamboree, which was moved from a September date because organizers thought (rightly) the change might increase community participation, and it was a full weekend.

That K9 event is worth visiting even for non-dog people, simply because of the breadth of events demonstrating canine skills: acrobatic ball-fetching (the winning leap into the pool was comparable to a gold-medal Olympic athlete), search dog demonstrations and competitions (a live rat, simulated corpse, drugs, etc.), a doggy pie eating contest, brain games, etc. It was a well-ordered circus out there and yes, the participants were well-controlled – both human and doggy. It was fun.

The Grand Parade on Saturday was vibrant with some 45 entries, and folks turned out to enjoy it. We had participants who show up in other local parades who decided to come to this one as well – the Grand Ronde Tribe was a big hit in their Native American gear, as were the Hocus Pokie Dancers from Lebanon, not to mention all the local entrants who’ve seemed to up their games each year. It was a good parade. Lots of goodies. Lots of fun.

It’s easy to overlook the amount of energy and commitment required to put on a community festival. Volunteers spend more hours than most of us would like to think about in meetings, on the phone, building floats and displays, organizing and coordinating events, mentoring and escorting Sportsman’s Holiday Court members – all so we can enjoy coming together as a community.

Kudos to the many people involved in making the Sportsman’s Holiday a community festival worthy of the name. We think the question of whether that Capitol Christmas Tree spirit can continue is answered with a hearty “yes.”

We can’t overlook the one other ingredient necessary for a successful community celebration. Getting back to that Christmas Tree celebration, it would have been a pretty big bust if the community hadn’t shown up. Same here. People who decided to sit around at home instead of coming out to participate missed out – pure and simple. There was something for everyone here and, unlike that game on your cellphone or that Netflix binge-watch session, this was real. It touched all five of our senses.

As one of our staffers, who’s been around a long time, stated in the midst of the celebration: “This year it’s fun!”