Oak Creek prepares for Labor Day | SteamboatToday.com

Oak Creek prepares for Labor Day

Festivities include pancake breakfast, parade, soap box derby and more

Susan Cunningham

Earlier this summer, there were two things Becky Wisecup knew she could expect for August: late nights and a steep cell phone bill.

Leading the Labor Day Committee turns into a job of its own this time of year for Wisecup, who is helping to organize the weekend of festivities for the second time.

But the work is worth it, she said.

“It means so much to everybody,” Wisecup said. “It’s like having a huge family reunion.”

Labor Day celebrations in Oak Creek began in the early 1900s as a way for coal miners from across the state to organize and talk about unionizing. Earlier celebrations were, for the most part, about business, said Renee Johnson, president of the Historical Society of Oak Creek and Phippsburg.

Years later, the focus turned to family and friends, said Johnson, who has lived in the town for 35 years.

“It (has been) a time to gather and have family reunions to visit,” Johnson said. “It was like one weekend set out each year where they knew they could come to town and see a lot of people they knew.”

That holds true today, as hotel rooms in Oak Creek have been booked for weeks, and former residents have been planning their trips for even longer. The Class of 1969 is hosting a reunion the Sunday of Labor Day weekend at the high school.

Some tourists just happen to stop by the town during the weekend and find they get “sucked in,” Wisecup said.

Johnson agreed, saying later that, “it is fun when a stranger comes to town and stays for the weekend.”

First-time visitors and longtime residents can look forward to a long list of weekend activities.

The festivities kick off Friday with a “Gong Show” at the Colorado Bar, Oak Creek’s version of the popular ’70s show in which people give their best performances — whether singing, dancing or twirling flaming batons — facing the chance that they’ll be “gonged” if the audience doesn’t approve. The teen dance also is Friday night.

Saturday begins with the pancake breakfast, followed by the soap box derby, cribbage tournament, a kiddies fun fair and concert in Decker Park, and a comedy show that features local improvisational performers, as well as comedic juggler Jek Kelly.

Sunday features softball, an auction, roadside mine tours and a barbecue with music. Labor Day starts with the parade, in which everyone is invited to participate. The parade is followed by an afternoon in Decker Park with food, games, contests and skydivers.

The Historical Society of Oak Creek and Phippsburg will have a big presence during the weekend. Members of the society will keep the Old Town Hall building open so residents and visitors can look through photos and books documenting the town’s almost 100-year history, buy handmade historic gifts or books and make copies of photos of relatives or old friends.

The Historical Society also is sponsoring a fabric sale from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Storm Mountain Coffee Roasters in downtown Oak Creek.

All funds raised will support the work of the historical society, which is not only working to preserve the town’s history, but has another goal of raising the funds to renovate Old Town Hall and turn it into a museum.

Vendors will line two blocks of Main Street, which will be shut down to traffic Saturday and Sunday, and residents should make sure not to miss out on the hours of bingo sponsored by the American Legion on Saturday and Monday.

This year’s parade has a theme of “Hollywood Hoedown,” which Wisecup said opens the door to some fun, fancy float ideas that still involve a down-home, country feel.

Jack and Janie Romick were chosen as this year’s grand marshals, as they are “outstanding citizens” and have an important presence in the community, Wisecup said.

— To reach Susan Bacon, call871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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