Short Stories by Pat Nelson

Anticipation building for Planters' Day

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June 20, 2008
By Pat Nelson for The Daily News, Longview, WA
Reprinted with permission

Click to enlargeTo me, this photo of the partially-assembled carnival at Woodland's Horseshoe Lake represents the word "anticipation."

Carnival workers anticipate a busy festival, smiling faces and lots of ticket sales this weekend during the Planters' Days festival.

Many kids anticipate receiving a few extra bucks from their parents for ride tickets. Teens anticipate seeing their friends. The Planters' Days Committee anticipates a great turnout for its annual celebration.

I anticipate the smiling faces of my grandchildren and friends who will be enjoying Planters' Days 2008 with my husband and me. We'll all be anticipating sunshine for the weekend's events.

Like a little kid, I look forward to the arrival of the carnival each June. My heart was beating a little faster Monday morning when the first carnival trucks started pulling into Horseshoe Lake Park.

How to get there: From I-5, take exit 21 to Horseshoe Lake on the west side of I-5.

When: Through Sunday

For information and schedule of events: http://washingtontourist.com/plantersdays/
On Monday, huge strawberries, part of a ride, sat on their trailer, but by Tuesday they had been assembled. By Thursday, after all of the rides had been inspected for safety, they twirled 'round and 'round, full of squealing children. On their trailer, they looked like a giant version of the crates of Woodland's sweet local berries sold at roadside stands.

Carnival employees and managers parked their campers and fifth wheels close to Horseshoe Lake this year, where they could enjoy its beauty. A few swam, not deterred by a strong breeze and cloudy skies. By Wednesday afternoon, many rides had been partially assembled. The Super Loops ride, not yet connected at the top in the picture above, requires that an employee climb to the top to complete its assembly. Perhaps that duty is even more thrilling than the ride itself. I held my breath as I watched a worker descend from the top of the loop to the ground, using the loop as a ladder. It was probably more frightening to me than it was to him.

The Planters' Days festivities began Thursday as kids paraded down Davidson Street in wagons, on bikes, and in costumes for the annual Kids' Day Parade. The parade terminated at the carnival site. Opening-day excitement continued with the queen's coronation. Then, at 10:00 p.m., people lined the banks of the lake and some watched from boats, as fireworks shot into the air, thundered and popped, and reflected off the lake in long, squiggly ribbons of color. For my family, the fireworks show was especially exciting because our granddaughters from Arizona, Lauren, 4, and Brooke, 9 months, had just arrived for a visit a few hours earlier.

Most people who attend the four-day event couldn't tell you why the community celebrates Planters' Days. The celebration dates back to June 30, 1922, when local farmers celebrated the fact that the dike protecting their farmlands from flooding had held for a whole year. Annual celebrations continued until 1943, when the celebration was discontinued until the end of World War II. There have been more floods since that first celebration, but most years, the dikes keep the farmlands from flooding, and the celebration goes on.

Saturday, our Kelso grandchildren, Max and Chelsea, will be showing their Arizona cousin, Lauren, some of their favorite Planters' Days activities: the frog jump, the penny scramble, the bed races, and the firemen's muster. If the kids aren't too tired, we'll take in the Colgate Country Showdown, the Rose City Classics Cruise-In, and the street dance in the evening.

I always look forward to the car show on the Sunday of Planters' Days weekend when as many as 400 classic cars line Davidson, Goerig, and Park Streets. Many look like the same cars that cruised in front of my high school every day after school in the1960's. When I look at those cars, I find myself saying, "I remember when...."

I'll be watching a new event on Sunday when the West Coast Outboard Racing Club holds its "Race Against Drugs" on Horseshoe Lake. We'll be watching these boats from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. as they race around the northern half the lake at speeds of 45 to 100 mph.

Anticipation. It's half the fun. The other half is attending Woodland's 2008 Planters' Days celebration.

Visit Pat Nelson's website at: www.storystorm.wordpress.com

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