Ever since the start of the Stay at Home lockdown due to the Coronavirus, we have seen thousands of cancellations and rescheduling of events. The DeForest area has had its share of cancellations — high school graduation ceremonies, the Dragon Art Fair, Token Creek’s Fourth of July Celebration, sports competitions, church services, and the list goes on.
One annual area event that held off announcing a cancellation was the DeForest Area Fourth of July Celebration. The Chamber of Commerce committee in charge of planning the celebration worked hard trying to find ways for the annual event to go on as scheduled and be in compliance with all the rules and regulations that have to be met for an event of this type following the Coronavirus pandemic.
They tried hard to find a way to make this year’s celebration happen but finally had to announce in late May that the 2020 fourth of July Celebration would be canceled. Plans have already started on planning a 2021 celebration.
Folks in this area have always looked forward to celebrating Independence Day since the early settlers used to gather at the edge of the woods on the northwest side of Campbell’s Hill for a community picnic. The event was moved to Fireman’s Park and the DeForest Commercial Club used to sponsor the celebration. The Commercial Club became the Chamber of Commerce and the celebration grew each year. The parade was smaller as well as the fireworks display back in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
Now for the past several years the local celebration has been a two-night, all-day celebration with a big parade, the Freedom Run, Bingo in the fire house, beer tent, kids events and a car show in the park. It’s all topped off by a great fireworks display in the evening. The Chamber still sponsors the celebration but several organizations join in making the celebration complete by serving food, treats and supplying all kinds of fun and entertainment for the entire family.
When my wife, Molly, and I ran the newspaper, we were heavily involved in the local celebration. I would go down to the park the night before the celebration to help set up tents and tables. We would have a float in the parade and work in the Bingo tent and help out as needed in the afternoon.
One year, we decorated our car celebrating the Diamond Anniversary of the DeForest Times-Tribune. We made a large diamond out of tin foil and attached it to a metal pole that was fitted into a base that was on the roof of the car. It didn’t work too well — the pole fell over four times driving from our house to the starting point of the parade on the other side of town. We were able to re-enforce it before the start of the parade route and it lasted through the entire route.
It didn’t seem to matter how much candy bought, we would always be close to running out by the end of the parade.
We worked the Bingo tent one hot, hot afternoon. The temperature was over 100 degrees in the park shelter that had a steel roof. Not even a whisper of a wind and the pony ride was located only a few feet away — not very pleasant.
We used to have a softball game, the Farmers vs. the Merchants. The Merchants were short-handed and we drafted some folks from the crowd. Jack Sigurlid played on our team. He broke his ankle sliding into base and spent the summer on crutches.
During the 60s, the DeForest Firemen really helped out the Chamber by manning the Beer Tent with the understanding that if there was a fire call they would be quickly vacating the beer tent to answer the call and Chamber volunteers would then rush in to keep the beer flowing.
Back in the 50s and 60s, we had a much smaller fireworks display and the firemen would set up the rockets and displays in the afternoon. When it came to setting off the fireworks one or two of the firemen would set them off. Frank Kruse who worked for the village was the man with the job of lighting the fireworks.
One evening it was growing dark and it was discovered that no one had asked Frank if he would light the fireworks. They hurried to his house which was only a half block from the park. Frank assumed someone else had the job and he went to bed. He had to get out of bed, get dressed and come over to assume his usual job of firing off the fireworks.
Dick Emerson is the former publisher of the DeForest Times-Tribune.