My first 4th of July in Melba, over 40 years ago, was certainly different from any I had experienced before. My favorite memory was of the potluck community luncheon held on the American Legion Hall’s lawn. Almost everyone in our small community attended. Everyone brought one or two dishes to share – resulting in many tables full of delicious food to be shared and enjoyed.
At some point, I remember thinking about what a great tradition this was and how it was a reminder of “old time” celebrations in America’s past. To me, the scene could have been straight out of a Disney movie about a “Turn of the Century” Fourth of July celebration. The only thing missing were the period costumes.
As years went by, the potluck luncheon was discontinued – but other great events, such as the Parade were added. We even had outhouse races! As always, the highlight of the day was the fireworks display. The show, provided by Atwell Parry and family, was fired at the elementary intramural field with the crowd ringing the area; everyone had a front row seat! The pace was slow – but the enjoyment was great. As is still the tradition, the hat was passed to collect donations for the event. Almost everyone who attended was willing to donate.
By the latter part of the 80’s, the City budget, with donations from the Melba Charity Auction were struggling to keep up with the costs of the fireworks. Former budgets of 500 to $1000 had increased to 2 or 3 thousand dollars for the same display. The costs were becoming too large to justify – considering the size and revenue for such a small city, even with the help of donations.
I remember thinking that if I was among those who stepped forward to promote a formal organization to be responsible for the perpetuation of our celebration – it would change my life here for the rest of my years in Melba. My experience by that time with fireworks made me feel that I could help create an event that could be self-sustaining, if that is what the community desired.
A small group of community leaders and businessmen called for a community meeting – concerned with the future of our Independence Day Celebration. The Melba Charity Auction offered $2000 seed money to help fund the group.
At the meeting, it was decided that a non-profit corporation; the Melba “Olde Tyme” 4th of July Celebration would be organized. It’s goal was to organize the events of the day, create fundraising opportunities for it’s benefit, and to secure the ability to continue the event into the future.
The original members of the Committee had one common goal. They all expressed the desire to create a fun, family oriented event that would be affordable for everyone. To that end, they avoided any direct involvement with alcohol sales, encouraged participation from all area churches and schools and moved to provide food concessions at prices meant to keep the cost reasonable.
The Committee decided to create several new additions to the day’s agenda. Tractor Pulls, Chicken Roundups, Closest to the Pin Contests, Horseshoes, Children’s Games and a Dunk Tank were all added to the festivities, with a chairperson in charge of developing each of these events. The organization seemed to involve a big portion of the people of the community in its endeavor. Advertising and publicity efforts were highlighted by the addition of a Bungee Jump, as well as Hot Air Balloon rides and an Acrobatic Stunt Airplane performance.
As we now know, the day was a huge success. The attendance was far greater than anyone could have predicted. The activities were varied and continued all day long. The open invitation to the greater Treasure Valley to come and celebrate with us was widely accepted. In spite of a larger crowd in attendance, the addition of new but traditional events made the day a great success in providing a real “Olde Tyme” experience.
Even as the Celebration evolves as the years go by, the goal of passing on to others the small town values of Patriotism and Community are well served by this event. In this way, one day a year, Melba shares with others the small town “Olde Tyme” values that have made America great. And to me – what makes this all worthwhile is knowing that all the children who attend will have a chance to experience those traditional values and carry them throughout their lives.