Valerie Twitchell, organizing committee chairperson for Alamo’s Fourth of July celebration, has announced this year’s theme as “Sweet Land of Liberty.”
She noted, “Our Fourth of July celebration is a tradition that relies on the generous support of the community.”
In fact, Fourth of July celebrations in Alamo probably go back to after the town was formally established in 1901. In her book, “Memories of Early Alamo,” Theresa Stewart Wadsworth remembers observing the Fourth of July around 1906, when she was not quite five years old.
She recalled, “The 4th was a big deal. Old Bill Lamb (we called him that because he had a son named Billy) on the 3rd of July would go up on the knoll [Pearson’s knoll where the town water tank is], and at midnight would set off a big boom, dynamite or gunpowder, and then another boom every hour-on-thehour until sunrise. Then he really set it to booming to wake up the entire town.” (Editor’s note: Sunrise on July 4 is usually about 4:30 a.m. PST).
She continues, “That got everyone going. Then we would put up the flag.”
For the girls and ladies, Wadsworth noted, it was a special time. “Everyone had a new dress and new shoes. From May Day until the 4th of July we would put black sox over our arms because we didn’t want to tan. We had to look good for the 4th.”
Each family would donate 50 cents to help with the celebration. “Will Stewart [Theresa’s uncle] would go to Caliente to get the 4th supplies. He would bring back oranges, popcorn and ice, to mention a few things.”
At 10:00 in the morning, Wadsworth wrote, “there would be a program and everything would have a patriotic theme. There would be a Goddess of Liberty with two attendants … they were all dressed in white and the Goddess of Liberty would have a crown on her head. Someone would sing the “Star Spangled Banner” and “America” (My Country tis of Thee).” [The Star Spangled Banner was popular at the time and sung often, but did not become the official anthem of the United States until March 3, 1931, the last day in office for President Hoover.]
Mrs. Wadsworth continued, “Uncle Tommy (Stewart, 1853-1935) would give a speech because he could really put it over. Ella Schofield would give a recitation or a poem. She was so good at it. Andy Richard always gave a speech. He would just get up there and give funny stories.”
She notes, “We would have ice cream then go home for lunch. Sometimes we’d go with some of our friends or they would come with us. Then at 2 o’clock everyone would meet for children’s sports. All the kids would race by age, sack races, three-legged races. Every kid who ran the race got a nickel and if you were lucky enough to win the race, you got a dime.”
Horse racing on the Fourth of July was very popular in early Alamo. Theresa wrote, “Some of the [Paiute] Indians who still lived in the valley, had some pretty good horses and they came for this. That was the main thing they were interested in. Next everyone one would go to the Old Hall [on the site of today’s LDS church] for the kid’s dance. This was before dark. Then we’d all go home for a little spell, clean up and a dance would be held [in the hall again] that night. Everyone went to it and all the women who had babies would put them up on the stage in buggies or blankets or whatever while the dancing was going on.”
It is believed the first large fireworks displays began in Alamo in the late 1950s or early 60s.