Off the Record

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

In all my 25 years as a North Idaho resident, I have never attended a Sandpoint Independence Day celebration.

The author and her fiance Alex competing in the Jack & Jill crosscut competition in 2018. Courtesy photo.

This sounds blasphemous, right? It is nonetheless true, because while the townies lined their sidewalks and swam their City Beach, I was far too preoccupied with Bonner County’s best kept secret: The Clark Fork Old Fashioned 4th of July Celebration.

That’s the official name. Colloquially, the day is known by its segments — the parade, foot races, Booster BBQ, airplane drop, turtle races, watermelon-eating contest, and sawing competition all happen each year, following the same unspoken schedule as dependable as Clark Fork’s old noon whistle used to be.

I’ve done it all, to varying enjoyment and success. I’ve both biked and ridden along in the parade, as well as watched from the sidelines, grasping at candy and koozies and every other goodie the familiar faces would throw my way. I’ve forced my sisters to join me in the foot races, squeezing their hands and pulling them along in pursuit of a shiney new silver or gold dollar. Here’s to all the grass stains, inflicted by and upon me, in front of hundreds of foot race onlookers.

I am of the firm belief that nothing tastes as good as a hot dog and an icy cold can of Coke at 10 a.m., directly following the parade, courtesy of the Clark Fork Booster Club. I’ve gathered windblown dollar bills and tickets for free ice cream from the airplane’s coveted midday drop onto the ball field, and gently stroked the shell of a turtle about to go head-to-head against the reptilian racers of my cousins and classmates. My favorite part of the day for many years was the watermelon-eating contest. A cold slab of melon, cut in front of you and placed into your small hands, was a trophy in itself; the art of shaving the flesh off with your teeth and thrusting the empty rind into the air, victorious and unbelievably sticky, was childhood euphoria.

The sawing competition has long been synonymous with my family, as my dad has (very humbly, despite my bragging) collected trophy after trophy and played a key role in making sure there are logs to saw and cold beer aplenty for the competitors. More important than the winning, of course, is “getting people involved,” he says, because that means the scent of fresh-cut wood and chorus of roaring saws will grace the ball field forever. 

I’ve been happy my whole life to be an avid cheerleader during this part of our festivities, aside from a momentary lapse in judgment when my fiancé and I competed in the crosscut competition a few years ago. It did not go well, and he has since joined forces with my much-more-muscley little sister.

The author with her sisters and cousins in matching shirts Auntie Kay made for them when they rode their bikes through the 2002 parade in Clark Fork. Courtesy photo.

No matter where I am, or what time of year it is, I can put myself in a Clark Fork Independence Day. The sights and smells are easy enough to recall, but it is the complete feeling of being home that I want to keep on hand forever.

No matter where you celebrate July 4 this year, I hope you feel at home, and you know that the Clark Fork Old Fashioned 4th of July is far superior to any other celebration on earth.

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