July starts with a bang in 2019. The opening of the Mother Lode Fair coincides with the Fourth of July, so there will be celebrations across Tuolumne County. Though fireworks are illegal in the county, that doesn’t prohibit a colorful, heartfelt celebration of our nation’s birth in Twain Harte and Columbia.
For an old-fashioned Fourth of July, go to Columbia State Historic Park on July 4. Beginning with a ceremonial flag raising and black powder musket salute at 11 am, the celebration is fashioned after the 49ers’ Fourth of July traditions established in 1852. The cornerstone of the day is a glorious parade up Main Street at noon. After the parade, listen to the Great Mother Lode Brass and Reed Band concert at the gazebo and dance in the street. For a mere dollar, you and the kids can try your skills at contests popular in the early days of Columbia, including climbing a greased pole, participating in the bucket brigade and enjoying a cake walk. Other contests include nail-pounding, watermelon- and pie-eating, an egg relay race and a toss, and a five-way tug-of-war. A pulled pork barbecue is served at 4 p.m. for $10 for adults and $6 for children under 10. Arrive early for the best parking and bring lawn chairs.
Twain Harte also honors July 4 with fun things to do. There is a singalong at All that Matters at 11 a.m., where the crowd bellows songs like “America (My Country ’Tis of Thee)” and “This Land is Your Land.” A parade follows the singing. Do you have a bicycle you can ride with some playing cards and clothes pins attached to the spokes to makes noise as the wheels turn? That’s the kind of entries you’ll see in this lovely hometown parade. Registration begins at 10 a.m.
During the afternoon, Cedar Street, which runs from Joaquin Gully Road in the center of downtown toward the fire department, will be lined with booths and fun things to do, including a bounce house.
Of course, some of us can’t imagine July 4 without fireworks. Don’t despair, there are options.
After our ultra-rainy winter, water levels were sufficient this year for the annual Fireworks on the Water at Don Pedro Lake on June 29. If you missed that dazzling display, you can head to Ironstone Vineyards in Calaveras County for a spectacular firework show on July 6. Or you could plan to go to the Mother Lode Fair, which will feature fireworks every night this year from July 4 to 7. There is also a free grandstand concert on July 4 by the Paul Thorn Band, Bonnie Bishop and Jennifer Grant.
Throughout Mother Lode Fair weekend, musicians take to the Corona Stage at the fairgrounds in Sonora. You can enjoy the Burn Permit Band on July 5, the Gitanos on July 6 and Moonshine Crazy on July 6, among others. This year, strolling acts like Capt. Encouragement and the High Voltage Dance Academy make walking the fairgrounds perpetually entertaining.
Out in the barns and exhibition halls, the livestock and domestic arts competitions get underway. Youngsters (and adults) wonder how their entries fared. Though relegated to the periphery of the colorful center of the fair, these events are, in many cases, the culmination of months of hard work on the part of entrants. In the air-conditioned exhibit halls, you can see everything from award-winning jams to amazing artwork, while out in the barns, the aroma of hay and exquisitely groomed farm animals is a homey greeting.
The Mother Lode Fair is a hot affair in every sense of the word. Because temperatures in the foothills often soar the first week of July, the midway doesn’t usually fill until dusk. Fairgoers stand in line for carnival rides holding cotton candy, funnel cakes and shaved ice. On July 5 and 6, the arena fills with spectators for the truck and tractor pulls.
According to my grandson, Cody Harrelson, who competed for the first time in the event last year, “It’s all pretty good-natured because the drivers are really going against themselves to see how well their vehicle can do. The announcers make things fun, too.”
After a year’s hiatus, the Destruction Derby returns at 7 p.m. July 7, bringing the fair to a roaring, grinding, screaming, steaming conclusion.
While July opens in celebration, the rest of the month slides into lazy days of summer with folks taking to their favorite summertime activities on the lakes or traipsing down dusty trails in the high country. You can purchase fabulous produce for picnics and barbecues at farmers markets in Sonora, Columbia, Peaceful Oak Road and Tuolumne. Kick up your heels to lively music at the outdoor concert series on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Watch a movie at the outdoor amphitheater at Pinecrest Lake every night or catch the bus for a day trip to Yosemite national park. Or grab an iced drink and simply kick back on your deck or in the backyard after the sun goes down and relish the cool night air.
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