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Fourth of July: Festival Park featured in events

Doug and Melissa Kirchhofer spearheaded the Fort Dalles Fourth effort. Contributed photo

Doug and Melissa Kirchhofer spearheaded the Fort Dalles Fourth effort. Contributed photo

Round up the kids and head downtown because Fort Dalles Fourth has a day full of fun planned to celebrate Independence Day on Friday, July 4, centering on the Lewis and Clark Festival Park.

“It’s shaping up to be a good event,” said Doug Kirchofer of Northwestern Mutual Financial Services. Kirchofer is one of the instigators of the first organized fireworks display in The Dalles since the Jaycees gave up that task a couple of decades ago. Northwestern Mutual is serving as the event’s title sponsor.

The festival built around that display features activities for a wide range of ages and interests, starting with the ACTS (Acclaiming Christ Through Sports) pancake feed from 7 to 9:30 a.m. at the festival area. Fresh strawberries and blueberries will be available for toppings.

Then run off those calories with the Polehn Farms Rocket Run, which takes off from the festival area at 8 a.m. Day of run registration starts at 7 a.m., or preregister at Fort Dalles Fourth, 515 Liberty St., The Dalles, OR 97058. Registration forms are on the “Fort Dalles Fourth” Facebook page. For more information, contact Melissa (Lee) Kirchhofer at Melissa.a.lee@nm.com or call 541-296-1966.

A patriotic parade is also planned, starting at 10 a.m. along the usual parade route starting at West Sixth and Webber streets and rolling through the business districts. Patriotism and nostalgia are the themes. “We want to give people freedom to express their patriotism at the event, especially for the parade,” Kirchhofer said. The event honors veterans and first responders.

Following the parade, a 10-hour festival featuring six musical acts will take over the Lewis and Clark Festival Park. The venue will be decked out lavishly in red, white and blue.

“These are primarily regional acts with ties to The Dalles,” said Nolan Hare, who is organizing entertainment for the event. “One is more of a national act.”

Wisewater, based in Nashville is on a national tour, featuring Forest O’Conner and Kate Lee.

After that, The Sceptres, featuring Dan Ross of The Dalles, and well-known singer-songwriter Cal Scott, will be performing 1960s-era music.

Then the Stolen Sweets will take the crowd even farther back with vintage gypsy jazz-style music of the 1930s and 1940s. The group features local native Erin Sutherland.

These afternoon performances can be enjoyed in a family-friendly setting. From noon until about 5 p.m., the event will be alcohol-free and feature kids’ games. Yoga on the lawn and other activities are also planned.

In the evening, organizers will set up a beer garden in one portion of the festival area for adults.

“We’ll shift things into a more concert festival atmosphere,” Hare said.

“It’s still all-ages, but we just wanted to take the first half of the day and take the alcohol out of the occasion,” Kirchhofer added.

Evening performances will include popular Hood River pop-rock band Sunderland, a veteran of national battles of the bands.

Kevin Selfe brings a full, seven-piece blues ensemble. Selfe has won a handful of Muddy Blues Awards.

Brewer’s Grade’s country sounds will round out the day. The band has toured all over the West Coast.

“We’ll be running from noon to 10 with solid, live music,” Hare said. The event will feature solid stage production with a good-sized stage, sound and lighting systems. “It’s the next level above what we have historically done.”

Along with the music, the festival will include family-friendly fun activities like bouncy houses, face painting, and miniature flags for the first 2,000 children contributed by the Mid-Columbia Veterans Memorial Committee.

All the events will lead up to what is expected to be one of the largest pyrotechnic displays in the Pacific Northwest (see related story, B3).

The day’s events will rely largely on volunteer labor, Kirchhofer noted. Several large groups are sending people to help, including the real estate industry and the Young Life youth group.

“It’s exactly what we envisioned in terms of contributing teamwork and effort,” he said.

Admittance to the event will be free, but the organizers invite donations to help fund the event and future Fort Dalles Fourth celebrations.

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