It’s an event not to be missed.
The annual Fourth of July celebration hosted in historic Columbia is gearing up for a banner year.
“It is small town America at its best,” explained Jo Rodefer, treasurer for the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, which puts on the once-a-year-party, officially known as Columbia’s Glorious Fourth of July Celebration.
This year, the Fourth of July falls on a Monday.
“Everything is free except for the barbecue,” Rodefer added of the day’s activities, which include something for everyone in the family. “There are games for kids and adults and one of the highlights is a greased pole competition.”
Aimed primarily at the younger set, there is a ‘starter’ pole for the youngest participants and a slightly taller pole for the older kids. Rodefer said many people returning to the Fourth of July festivities as adults fondly remember their time trying to reach the top of the greased pole as children.
“We lube that thing up,” she said, “and there’s money at the top.”
The goal, of course, is to be the one that conquers the greased pole and earns the prize money.
“It’s a little goofy,” Rodefer admitted, “but it’s a blast.”
All of the events are situated in historic downtown Columbia, amidst the businesses and quaint shops, the blacksmith’s area and with the one room schoolhouse on the hill in view.
Official events start with a band playing at 11 a.m. and the parade starts at noon.
As people arrive and start to settle in for the music and pageantry of the parade, Rodefer said they offer a ‘Needle in the Haystack’ game for kids to keep them entertained, with a bale of straw scattered around and plastic crochet hooks hid in the straw.
“The kids scramble around to find them,” Rodefer said.
At 11 a.m., the American flag is raised, those in attendance are asked to join in the Pledge of Allegiance and there is an Honor Guard, then music by the band. The parade forms up and steps off at noon; there is no charge to be in the parade and the sign-ups start at 10:30 a.m. on July 4 to make sure people get a spot in the parade.
Rodefer described the parade as having some of the “goofiest and funniest” entries, the more colorful the better.
“Put your grandkids in the parade, put your dogs in the parade,” she said.
All the businesses in town are open for the day so besides taking in the wide varsity of special activities, Rodefer said it’s “just fun” to walk around the historic community.
Other special features for July 4 include:
A demonstration of Papeete, which was a state-of-the-art piece of firefighting equipment in the 1800s, a hand pump that takes a lot of volunteers to operate.
A cake walk, played like musical chairs, with a cake the ultimate prize.
A watermelon eating contest.
An egg relay race for youngsters where they have to run with an egg on a spoon and be the first to complete the course without breaking the egg.
An adult egg toss, with teams of two tossing the egg back and forth, getting farther apart after each successful toss. Last team standing with an unbroken egg wins.
A ‘five-way’ tug of war that can feature different team scenarios, whether it’s 2 vs. 3, 4 vs. 1 or everyone for themselves, played with a specially made rope.
“We try to keep the games very historic,” Rodefer noted.
Also planned is a Bucket Brigade demonstration of how fires used to be fought, with the buckets of water passed from one team member to the next, and the Blacksmith’s Shop hosts a nail pounding contest.
Rodefer said she particularly enjoys watching the various egg races.
“Some grown-ups practice all year (for the egg toss) and with the kids, we end up with broken eggs all over the place,” she said. “It’s such great fun, there is wild cheering.”
And don’t worry about the mess, as the hand-pump fire apparatus can be used to not only shower the crowd with cool water but also can help clear away the egg debris.
The barbecue meal details will be worked out by the date of the event, including cost, but Rodefer said it is always a good, filling meal perfect for a holiday gathering.
The Fourth of July celebration in Columbia was not held in 2020 but made a return last year and Rodefer anticipates an even bigger and better event for 2022.
“My husband and I came up here from Southern California and I was originally a history major,” she explained of embracing the historic standing of Columbia.
“We have what might have been going on 100 years ago,” she added of the Independence Day fun. “People come from all over the place; we have thousands here. It is the busiest day of the year for all the businesses in town.”
Columbia State Historic Park is at 22708 Broadway St., Columbia, three miles north of Sonora off Highway 49.
For more information about the Glorious Fourth of July Celebration, visit the website: www.visitcolumbiacalifornia.com or call the Columbia Chamber of Commerce at 888-488-1850.