Issaquah’s Past Labor Days
September 1, 1971
by Harriet Fish
It was noontime on Labor Day in 1948 when I arrived for the first time in Issaquah. Now, In those days, noontime on Labor Day was a pretty busy, bustling time for all local lads and lassies-and that particular day was no exception. There were people everywhere and traffic was at a standstill. For Labor Day was the town festival period with contests, demonstrations, dances, carnivals and the biggest, most elaborate parade for a town of its size in the whole state of Washington.
Looking back, the earliest note we find in the ISSAQUAH INDEPENDENT of Sept. 1918 refers to that year’s Labor Day celebration having been favored by good weather. A parade with an American Flag, the Issaquah Band and decorated autos; sports on the ball field; a dance at which the ladies of the Red Cross served lunch and supper. All this wes organized by the local chapters of the United Mine Workers of American and the Timber Worker’s Union
The following year, 1919, an exciting baseball game was the feature of the Labor Day when Issaquah beat Redmond. There were again games for the young people on the ball field that day.
Then, in the early 1920′s, Issaquah became known widely for its free-wheeling celebrations. They were held on Memorial Field, over the Fourth of July weekend and were real western rodeos. The Indians and their ponies, the sharp shooters, the trick riders and the rugged animals put on a real “Whing-Ding.” The saloons were busy, the Marshall was busy and the jail ended up-full. Money changed hands advantageously. But this type of festival lasted only for a few years.
During the 1930′s there were speeches by celebrities, foot and bike races, horse-shoe games and scout demonstrations, on a local entertainment level, in keeping with the economic conditions of those years.
When World War II came along, all celebrations were suspended. In 1945 the Labor Day festival weekend was reinstated. The Issaquah Athletic Club was organized and a whole series of energetic leading citizens headed it, building up activities each year and a treasury to support and improve Memorial Field. The system reached its peak in the late 1950′s and early 1960′s with elaborate floats in the Grand Parade; a children’s parade; queens, both local and visiting; participation in Seattle’s Seafair Parades; arts and crafts shows, with artists in action; dances; drill team competitions; track rodeos; athletic games; just everything practical to publicize Issaquah and bring crowds to participate with the local residents over the weekend.
As with all endeavors which take months to plan and energy to execute-fatigue set in, ideas waned and changes came about-at least at this strenuous level.
The parades and queen contest continued well into the middle 1960′s, each year with somewhat less drive until new efforts with new directional emphasis began to take form.
Now we have a Miss Issaquah Pageant in the spring, a Port Commision Day in August, and a Salmon Festival in October-and lots more people to plan, organize and produce the results.
These are celebrations in embryo, progressing along well each year, as history continues to repeat itself.