The city of Hailey has celebrated Independence Day in style since at least 1881, nine years before Idaho was admitted to the Union. This year’s theme, “Stars and Stripes, Forever,” would surely ring true with Hailey residents from years gone by accustomed to taking the stage on the Fourth of July to celebrate the union, promote the rights of workers and show off some local color.
On the Fourth in 1881, a Goddess of Liberty float was drawn down Main Street carrying Miss Lillie Moore (as the goddess) and 4-year-old twins Gracie and Theresa Knapp representing “peace and plenty.” They were followed by 38 young ladies for a procession down Main Street, each representing one of the 38 states.
The celebration was followed by baseball games, horse races, fireworks and a Grande Ball, wrote legendary Wood River Journal writer Roberta McKercher in 1990 during the city’s Centennial Celebration.
Wood River Times Editor T.E. Picotte said the celebration two years later was far more substantial, following a little trouble out Croy Canyon where Gen. E.E. Cunningham had led a posse in pursuit of the outlaw Six-Shooter Jack.
In late June of that year, a deluxe railroad car carrying mining baron George Hearst had stopped in Hailey. It was thought by some that rumors of lawlessness could affect the local economy by deterring investments by men like Hearst.
“They found the outlaws sleeping in the open air in a clearing surrounded by brush. By daylight the entire posse had surrounded the men, and called on them to surrender. Jack went for his guns and was shot through with a volley of bullets,” Picotte wrote.
The Fourth of July parade began about two weeks later with a line of Miners Union workers 250 men strong who marched through the mining settlement of Bullion east of town, later collecting at the mouth of Croy Canyon.
“At the Bullion Street Bridge they alighted, walked into town with banners flying and the band playing, marched up Main Street to the post office, and counter marched to the corner of Main and Bullion Streets,” Picotte wrote in 1883.
The miners were joined by a procession over a mile long that included Grand Marshal W.T. Riley and Assistant Marshals J.A. Rupert, Mans Coffin, Don McKay and S.J. Freidman, many of whom still have descendants in town 133 years later.
A “couple of hundred” vehicles of every kind, from hay wagons to family carriages, some carrying 50 people each, made it to Dorsey’s Grove in the sweltering heat. Some 3,000 people gathered to hear E.O. Wheeler, poet of the day, from Ketchum, read “Hail Columbia, Gem of the Ocean,” a song that, at the time, vied with “The Star-Spangled Banner” for national anthem status.
The Red Stocking Nine baseball team of Hailey played the Gate City Nine of Bellevue.
Picotte reported that the umpire made so many bad calls against Hailey that the team walked away rather than finish the game.
“The Red Stocking refused to continue, although they could readily have vanquished their opponents,” he wrote.
In 1890, the year Idaho was granted statehood, Hailey held a parade that was seen by 2,000 visitors. Miners from nearby camps came to town to be “citizens for a day,” wrote McKercher. “The streets were alive with bunting and evergreen.”
The procession included the Hailey Brass Band, drills by the Col. F Idaho Guards, the Hailey Hose Company fire department and orators who spoke about subjects such as the “pauper labor contract, anarchists and justice to the silver miners.”
“Hordes of miners” carrying flags from the War Dance, Triumph, Red Elephant and other mines marched proudly through the streets.
By 1911 the mining boom had gone bust, but excursion trains brought hundreds of celebrants to Hailey, so many that the nearby towns of Ketchum, Bellevue and even the distant towns of Picabo and Carey had to take in house guests to accommodate them all.
That year floats of all kinds became a feature in the parade, balls were “crowded to suffocation” and trap shooting was added to the by-now famous Hailey horse-racing track, where Nelson’s Ballfield exists today.
The Golden Jubilee Celebration of 1931 featured “street sports,” a horse show and double drilling contests on the Legionnaire’s Pavilion and a parade of wedding gowns. One float carried Maxine Walker wearing a 50-year-old gown of Mrs. M.J. Friedman. Billie Horn was the Goddess of Liberty. During that time, the pioneer heritage of the town was suitably old enough to celebrate with an exhibit of photos and artifacts at the Freidman Building on Main Street.
During the war years, no horns blew during the Fourth of July parades in Hailey, wrote McKercher. Instead there were baby shows and free movies, and a pet and pony. Contests now included a “colored vs. white miners” baseball game. The game was “won handily in 1944 by the blacks 9-0,” McKercher wrote.
By the early 1950s, the Sawtooth Rangers Days of the Old West Rodeo in Hailey had become a big part of the parade, with riders marching down Main Street to the rodeo arena. They included Floyd Wilson, Julio Astorquia and Ollie and Mrs. Glenn, followed in later years by Rupert and Bonnie House, and Ted and Maxine Uhrig.
Ted Uhrig’s aunt Chrystal Harper took care to make sure the stock animals had enough water and shade, calling the cops if they did not.
In 1956, the city’s parade featured kangaroo courts and dunk tanks, can-can girl dance lines. Thirteen ladies of “vintage years” were pronounced queens and paraded downtown with attendants in tow.
“The men, not to be outdone, grew beards, sideburns and moustaches and sported dandy attire,” McKercher wrote. “Tom Walker and Art Ensign Jr. won handily in the beard growing and natty attire contest.”
During the 1960s, Teddy Hawkes and Ryan Mallon’s Frontier Town Productions brought a chorus line to the rodeo arena. In 1962, Joe Guezeraga and Wally Young started the Fourth of July barbecues in Hailey, which persisted for decades, aided by Leo Stavros and George Lewis. In later years, many smaller barbecues and family gatherings took its place.
At some point, the Hailey Hellers Shootout Crew began taking to Main Street during Fourth of July festivities, for a re-enactment of what had once been actual outlaw behavior, followed in later years by the Black Jack Ketchum Shootout Gang.
Due to public input, these dramatic re-enactments have also been discontinued. Local and state politicians still ride by on horseback and in vintage automobiles. The parade is largely a celebration of local businesses, livestock and youth bands and nonprofits.
The Hailey Fourth of July parade today has many vestiges of days gone by, including an ice cream social. The horse races at Werthheimer Park are long gone, but the Days of the Old West Rodeo is still going strong, thanks to the enduring Sawtooth Rangers.