Oak Creek As they sat on a bench along Main Street before the Labor Day parade Monday morning in Oak Creek, lifelong Phippsburg residents Clyde and Louise Iacovetto couldn’t exactly pinpoint when they started attending the annual event.
But the pair, brother- and sister-in-law, knew it had been a long time.
“Forever and forever,” said 83-year-old Clyde.
Louise, 85, said the parade was tradition. She said it’s what you’re supposed to do in Oak Creek.
“A small community needs something to bring people together and something to bring folks back,” she said about the town of more than 800.
Monday’s parade kicked off a day of events in Oak Creek, the last day in an annual weekend-long celebration that commemorates the town’s mining heritage. But beyond reliving history, residents said the events had a different significance.
“You get to see a lot of people. It keeps the community together,” said Oak Creek resident Stephanie Johnson, who attended the parade with her husband, Jeremiah, and their two children, 8-year-old Tyla and 1-year-old Odin. “It’s just a really nice family day. They do stuff for everybody, every age.”
The weekend’s festivities included a family movie, local pub crawl and dance party Friday night; and a fishing derby, children’s activities, a horseshoe tournament, bingo, crowning of the Coal Princess and a performance by a comedian Saturday.
Sunday began with the parade at 11 a.m., led by grand marshals J Elliott, Oak Creek’s former mayor, and his wife, Becky. Destiny Hunter, 6, this year’s Coal Princess, followed the Elliotts.
They led a procession of about 30 parade participants, heading east to west on Main Street, that included local businesses and groups — such as Soroco High School’s chapter of the FFA on horseback — local members of political parties, classic sports cars and Oak Creek Fire Protection District fire engines and ambulances, which blared sirens as they made their way down the street.
And, of course, nearly each of the parade participants threw candy to children, who with their families, numbered in the hundreds on both sides of Main Street.
After the parade, the party headed to Decker Park, where children played in the open field while their parents chatted on the sides. There were plenty of games for children — boys and girls starting at ages 2 to 4, for example, ran across the field and jumped into their parents’ arms. There also were mother/daughter and father/son races. Vendors sold food and crafts. Other booths were set up for groups to provide information or fundraise.
The Decker Park activities were highlighted by the town’s annual grease pole event, in which participants try to scale a pole that’s about 12 feet high and covered in grease. For successfully scaling the pole, Saw Wisecup was awarded $300 — $100 for this year and $100 for the two previous years in which participants failed to make it to the top.
Mike Yurich, a historian with the Historical Society of Oak Creek and Phippsburg, said Oak Creek’s Labor Day celebration has been held since at least 1913, based on photographs he’s found of union officials speaking on Main Street. Yurich said the event originally allowed union leaders to address their members, when Oak Creek was a mining town of between 2,000 and 3,000 people.
Oak Creek Mayor Nikki Knoebel said the weekend, in addition to honoring Oak Creek’s mining heritage, also provided an economic boost to local businesses, which depend on the weekend’s attraction of locals and visitors.
But she said the main goal of the Labor Day festivities was to bring the entire South Routt community together, along with friends from Steamboat Springs and Hayden.
“There’s kids’ games, laughs, good food and good company,” she said. “And this year, with the events, we tried to make everything cost effective with the economy.”