Ione's ambitious Fourth of July celebration went off without a hitch. Well, almost.

The duck races, scheduled for Main Street at 4 p.m. were delayed when a fire broke out in a haystack at the Vandenbrink Dairy and the pumper trucks that would have supplied the water for the event left town unexpectedly.

On occasion, the duck races have been held in nearby Willow Creek, but the water level in recent years has been too low so the fire trucks have been pressed into service to send enough of a flood down the street to carry the plastic quackers to the finish line.

One year, so much water was sent down Main Street that when the makeshift stream made the turn at the Bank of Eastern Oregon Building, it inundated the Go-Kart concession.

Since the fire station is right across the street from the Ione City Park, the departure of the trucks added to the excitement of the day.

There was also something of a royal flair as well. Morrow County Fair Queen Josie Miller, who was helping preside over the Fourth of July Festivities, is also a volunteer fire-person in Lexington. When the siren rang, she boarded one of the departing trucks, still wearing her sash, intent on lending a hand.

But despite the problem with the duck races, there was plenty to entertain the crowd which gathered on Tuesday night to hear Victor Johnson present a special children's blues program followed by a talent show and more musical entertainment.

Games Open

Wednesday Events

Wednesday's events got under way early with a fish pond and a book sale.

Formally titled "Red, White & Blues ... Cruisin' To The Blues," the two-day celebration included a parade which went from one end of Main Street almost to the other.

A highlight of the parade is always the Blues Cruise Car Parade which is then followed by a show.

In the afternoon, the park was filled with events including the annual frog jumping contest. Joe McElligott, who co-chairs the event with his wife, Jeri, said that attraction has been a part of the Fourth since 1988.

McElligott said that when it first started, his co-chair was Morrow County School Superintendent Chuck Starr. Now Starr's son, Denny, who is an educator in Spray, and his children provide assistance.

"That's a nice touch," said McElligott, "three generations of Starrs." The main role of the Starr family is to collect frogs from the John Day Basin and transport them to Ione.

McElligott said the event started with tree frogs but they soon switched to bullfrogs, which have been imported from Spray for the past nineteen years.

The chair was quick to point out that by late afternoon on every Fourth, the frogs have already been returned to their natural habitat.

McElligott also noted he is proud of the frog safety record. "In fact," he noted, we have a stellar safety record because we have only had three fatalities in 19 years and we use 50 frogs a year."

He did admit that during the early years, when they were using both tree frogs and bullfrogs, there were additional casualties when the bullfrogs ate the tree frogs.

Port of Morrow President Marv Padberg, an Ione resident who was on hand throughout the day, estimated the crowd at between 2,000 and 3,000. "I think we are down a little this year," said Padberg, "because it is a little harder for people when the Fourth comes in the middle of the week."

Blues Festival Highlights Late Afternoon Program

With temperatures hovering near 100 degrees, attendees spent as much of the day as possible finding either the natural shade provided in the park or under canopies that were erected in the open spaces.

By late afternoon, the Blues Festival was underway featuring such groups as Sassparilla, Hillstomp, and Big Monte Amundson. Other performers included the Ione Allstars featuring Fiona Boyes, an internationally renowned blues artist from Australia.

As dusk settled over the south Morrow County community, all eyes were fastened on the fireworks display which lit up the night sky.

Today, many of those who enjoyed the respite and the celebration, are busy launching the wheat harvest that fuels the economy of Ione and the surrounding countryside.

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