Locals and visitors alike can expect another Fourth of July extravaganza this year thanks to the city of Hailey and the Chamber of Hailey & the Wood River Valley. As far back as 1883, Hailey has been the hotspot for Independence Day, and this year will be no different, says chamber Executive Director Mike McKenna.
A week before the big day, McKenna said, registration was higher than average for participants to walk in the annual parade, including a significant number of youth sports teams from across the valley. McKenna said they’re trying to get more horses this year to highlight the traditional theme of Days of the Old West, which the audience always embraces with cowboy attire.
Last year the Los Angeles Times named Hailey’s Fourth of July parade as one of the best in the American West that will supply “maximum fun” for attendees. McKenna said the key to success year after year is easy: Keep it classic and keep it local.
“You just have to keep doing a good job. [Keep it] as American as apple pie,” McKenna said.
Over the years, parade planners have begun focusing on marketing to a broader range of people to expand the reach and get more Idahoans and out-of-state visitors to Hailey for this family-friendly event every year. McKenna said that when it comes to creating advertisement, whether it be radio or television, using local talent is a must.
“We try to have almost everything we do produced by local talents,” he said, because locals know what the best parts of living in the Wood River Valley are, whether it be expansive aerial views of the Big Wood River or the architectural character of buildings on Hailey’s Main Street like The Mint and the Liberty Theatre.
In general, it’s locals who have kept this event such a draw for so many years. McKenna said that this year, local businesses are stepping up to provide live music at their venues to disperse some of the large crowds that head to RiverFest straight after the parade, and that every year local businesses and donors come through to make sure there are funds for a spectacular fireworks show to conclude the night.
The parade also provides cheap advertisement for local business, McKenna said. For the low, low price of $25, anyone can join the parade and advertise their business or service to thousands of people lining the streets. In the past, McKenna said many of the valley’s nonprofits have joined the parade as a unique way to showcase their causes and participate in a local tradition of marching down Hailey’s Main Street.
Dayle Ohlau, is just one local resident who will be marching in the parade, to celebrate not just the United States’ independence from Great Britain, but also to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving women the right to vote. Though the amendment wasn’t ratified until 1920, it was passed by Congress on June 4, 1919.
A journalist herself, Ohlau said the idea to “march” just came to her and she wanted to pay homage to the early suffragettes who struggled for the rights we have today.
“I wanted to do something to honor the suffragettes,” Ohlau told the Idaho Mountain Express in a phone interview last month. “It’s such an honor and a privilege to be able to vote, especially as a woman.”
Ohlau will be marching in the Fourth of July parade with her daughter, in time-period clothing of 1913, when the first march took place in Washington, D.C. The Woman Suffrage Procession of 1913 had the purpose of protesting against the political organizations of the time, from which women were excluded. Ohlau said she was touched by those women who endured beatings, forced feedings and imprisonment fighting for a right that they believed in passionately.
Most important, McKenna said, is to make sure the events run smoothly, and that everyone has a safe and fun time, including visitors because while they’re here, “it’s a little bit home to them, too.”
Beyond the parade, Fourth of July participants can start the celebrations early with a pancake feed hosted by the University of Idaho Extension, Blaine County 4-H Club families. The hot breakfast will include pancakes, eggs, bacon and sausage. The griddle will start sizzling at 7:30 a.m. at the Grange Hall, 609 S. Third Ave. in Hailey.
Once your stomach is full, throw on your tulle and get ready for the 5K Tutus and Tennis Shoes Fun Run to support the Sun Valley Ballet Foundation. The first 100 registrants will receive a free tutu, hot dog and age-appropriate beverage. Race start time is 9 a.m. at the Merriwether Building on north First Avenue near Bullion Street.
Post-race, head to the parade and join in on the Road Apple Roulette, betting on horse poop to help raise money for the Hailey Rotary, which supports local groups with grants and Rotary members to fly abroad and help build homes. After the parade, head to local restaurants like Lago Azul, which will have a live band, or make your way to the fifth annual RiverFest, hosted by the Wood River Land Trust. The celebration will continue with live music, local food and craft vendors lined up at the Draper Wood River Preserve and Lions Park until 5 p.m. Then patriots can make their way to the Sawtooth Rangers Fourth of July Rodeo before ending the night with the fireworks, an explosive show worth experiencing.