A Labor of love

Oak Creek residents pitch in to save holiday


— When Becky Wisecup was in the eighth grade, she woke up Labor Day morning in Oak Creek with as much excitement as if it were Christmas.

"You get up and hurry and get out the door so you don't miss anything," Wisecup said.

"Labor Day here when I was a kid was just nonstop. You didn't go home."

When Rhonda Crawford was younger, she remembers asking her father for money to spend at the Labor Day vendors.

One of her favorite parts was the parade.

One year, when she was 5 or so, Crawford sneaked into the parade. She remembers watching the last vehicle drive by -- it was either an ambulance or a fire truck -- and then climbing on the back to ride it the rest of the way with a friend.

When Wisecup, now 25, and Crawford, now 19, heard rumors last year that Oak Creek's Labor Day tradition might be coming to an end, they said their immediate reaction was one of sadness.

"My heart sank," Wisecup said. "I was like, what do you mean no more Labor Day?"

Crawford agreed.

Oak Creek is known around the county for its Labor Day celebrations, which began officially in 1913. While Yampa has the Fourth of July, Wisecup said that Labor Day has always been Oak Creek's.

On this year's Labor Day fliers, there's a photo of the town's 1913 Chamber of Commerce inviting residents in Baggs, Wyo., to the Labor Day festivities.

Last spring, Wisecup told her husband one day that she wished there was a position on the Labor Day committee.

The next day, her husband came home from work and told her to go put in an application because the entire committee had resigned.

Wisecup did just that, became president of the committee, got Crawford as well as two other people to help her, and started to work.

Typically by March, almost everything is in line for the big event, Wisecup said. But after signing on to the project, she said she realized she had just a few months to put the event together.

After a few months and many long hours, Wisecup said she's confident this year's Labor Day, which is Oak Creek's 90th, will be a huge success.

This year's theme is "Celebration of Freedom," an idea that came from brainstorming with Oak Creek Mayor Cargo Rodeman.

"I wanted it to be the celebration of something," Wisecup said. "And (Rodeman) said, 'Celebration of Freedom,' and we all said, 'Yes.'"

The weekend has a variety of events, from the traditional pancake breakfast Saturday morning, to vendors, dunking booths, a petting zoo, a fishing derby and more.

The committee is bringing back the "Gong Show," Oak Creek's version of the popular 1970s show in which people showed their talents and hoped they didn't get gonged off the stage by the judges.

There's an all-day softball tournament, a soapbox derby for children, and jail and bail, in which anyone can pay to put someone else in "jail," a little cell on Main Street.

"We're trying to bring back a lot of the old stuff that people really, really enjoyed," Wisecup said.

There's an auction with prizes donated by businesses, dances and races, a barbecue and mine tours sponsored by the Historical Society of Oak Creek and Phippsburg.

And of course, there's a big Labor Day parade.

Oak Creek's Labor Day would not be complete without the skydivers.

On Monday after the parade, everyone gathers in the park downtown and turns their heads to the sky to see what will fall.

This year, four or five skydivers are scheduled to land in Decker Park.

If they touch down on a pizza pie plate, put out by Dinty Moore's Restaurant, they can win some cash, Wisecup said.

The restaurant has several pie plates from celebrations in the past, reading "Jake Schwan hit the plate," and more.

As soon as this year's festivities are over, Wisecup and Crawford said they'll take a little time to catch their breath.

And then they'll start planning for next year.

"It's just like watching this little thing bloom and then it gets bigger and bigger and bigger and then it's over, but you can't wait for next year," Wisecup said. "And next year, we plan to make it even better than this year.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.