Oak Creek keeps tradition alive for Labor Day | SteamboatToday.com

Oak Creek keeps tradition alive for Labor Day

Nicole Inglis

— Just like her aunt and many cousins before her, Destiny Hunter, 6, stood in front of a crowd and smiled as a sparkling tiara was placed on her head.

The tradition of naming an Oak Creek Coal Queen and Princess dates back to before any residents can remember.

Girls and women compete for the crowns by selling raffle tickets, and a ceremony is conducted Labor Day weekend. They act as the royalty in Oak Creek's annual Labor Day Parade, which will take place at 11 a.m. Monday on Main Street.

"It feels like I'm a little princess," Destiny told her father, Ryan, as she showed him her shiny new trophy. She had just washed tiger face paint off her face minutes before she was crowned. No queen was crowned this year.

On Saturday, at Decker Park in Oak Creek, children enjoyed face-painting, a bouncy castle, a water slide and a petting zoo as a part of the town's annual Labor Day weekend celebration.

An obstacle course set up by the Oak Creek Fire Department also was a popular attraction at the park.

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EMS Operations Captain Theresa Kelliher said it was the first year the department had set up an outreach program during Labor Day.

"We want to try to get the good stuff we do out there in the community," Kelliher said. "We love being a part of the community."

Children lined up for the free opportunity to don a firefighter's hat, spray a firehouse, climb a ladder and crawl through a doghouse-size structure filled with fake smoke from a fog machine. They were rewarded with a lollipop at the end of the course.

"The smoke house was my favorite part," said Kelliher's 12-year-old daughter, Megan. "It felt like you were really in a fire."

Megan said Labor Day festivities in Oak Creek always were a good time.

"I think we're celebrating a tradition from back in the past," she said.

Bringing the town of about 800 together for Labor Day weekend is a tradition that dates to 1913, and Oak Creek Mayor Nikki Knoebel said it's the largest celebration of the year.

"Our community comes togĀ­ether as a whole, and they're out to support each other and the businesses," she said. "I've seen people out I'd never expect to see out."

Knoebel was eager to participate in each event herself, and she spent her fair share of time in the dunking tank as community members chucked baseballs at a lever.

Utah Schmanski, 10, dunked Knoebel on his very first throw. His face was painted to look like a skeleton. He and his friend Jonathan Jerome, 9, had walked to the park to enjoy what they said is the most fun weekend of the year.

"We pretty much like to get our faces painted and pet the goats," Utah said. "It's fun."

And being a part of the Oak Creek community is fun, too, Jonathan said.

"People here are cool, funny and happy," he said.

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