When we first moved here 35 years ago, I was absolutely stunned at the festivities and enormous crowds that come to this little mountain town to celebrate July 4th. After an early morning fund raiser breakfast (7:00-9:00 AM) for the Mountain Rescue Team, things start rolling (literally) around 10:00 AM with a long parade and streets clogged to the max with spectators from all over the country. Chances are you’ll catch candy or beads thrown from some float or you just might get soaking wet from the fire truck hoses.
Normally, the US Air Force does a flyover during said parade. Last year, a terrific young man I watched grow up right next door and graduate from the Air Force Academy as a pilot and major in the US Air Force, flew his F-16 fighter jet through this canyon upside down over Main Street…really low. Mouth-dropping awesome! Rumors have it he will be the pilot again this year, so we’re all anxious to see what he has in store for his beloved home town.
Right after the parade there are barbecues at the Masonic Lodge #37 and adjacent Elk’s Lodge #492 on Main Street, an ice cream social at the Ouray County Historical Museum, kids games in the park and water fights with powerful fire hoses at 2:00 PM at 6th and Main. At dusk the Jeeps and other 4 WD vehicles have glow sticks and twinkle lights secured to their bumpers at the overlook above town and they provide what we used to call a flare parade (now named a 4WD Jeep Glow Parade) winding down the switchbacks into town. As a finale, at dark the fireman put on a fantastic show of spectacular fireworks above the overlook that light up Mt. Abrams and the surrounding other mountains. After that, the roads are totally plugged with traffic leaving town for an hour or two.
My husband was the chief of police here for 22 years and it was the most challenging day of the year for his officers and the other agencies who assist in this extravaganza. For many years, someone dropped a full case of dynamite into the canyon above the river bridge at the ice park and it would rattle your windows and have you jumping out of bed in the wee hours of the night. This is an old tradition left over from when Ouray was a booming mining town.
So as you go about celebrating in whatever way it’s done where you are, enjoy yourself and please be safe. We lost our beloved 21-year-old grandson six years ago in a mountain ledge fall while celebrating this holiday, so being mindful of safety is extremely important.
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!