HERMISTON - When President Dwight Eisenhower traveled to McNary Dam 50 years ago Thursday to throw the switch on one of the largest hydroelectric power facilities in the United States, workers spruced up the new facility by trying to get rid of the cob webs.
"This time of year there are tremendous spider webs," said Nola Conway, spokeswoman for the Army Corps of Engineers Walla Walla District.
A half-century later, the cob webs will be swept up for another celebration.
On Thursday the Army Corps of Engineers will throw a 50th anniversary bash at McNary Dam's Spillway Park to honor the gigantic public works project that has provided electricity, water for crops and recreational space for almost two generations.
Scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., the ceremony will run until 11:30 a.m. The public is invited and seating will be provided.
State Sen. David Nelson, R-Pendleton, will deliver the keynote speech.
Nelson said his address will highlight how the dam has benefited the area and how increasing the amount of water farmers and others can use will help drive projects ranging from economic development to fighting methamphetamine production and abuse.
"If we're paying for public service by taxes, and better public services create more jobs, then how do you make progress? In our part of the country, it's through the use of water," Nelson said.
Additionally, officials from the Bonneville Power Administration and Lt. Col. Randy Glaeser, the Walla Walla District commander for the Corps, will speak. Music for the ceremony will be provided by the Army Band from Fort Lewis, Wash.
Afterward, dam officials will conduct tours from 1-4 p.m. Included in the tours will be visits to the Washington Fish Viewing Room, a section of the dam that has been closed to most visitors since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
The tours will be open to American citizens with a government issued identification card only, said Conway.
Later that evening the McNary Employee Association will sponsor a no-host social at 5:30 p.m. at the Eagles Lodge in Hermiston. The event is intended for current and past employees of the dam and their families.
Tickets are $20 per person, which includes dinner. The evening starts with a cocktail hour. Those attending will have a choice of prime rib, chicken or fish.
At 9 p.m. a slide presentation containing more than 500 photos of the dam and site dating back before construction will be shown. Then the country-rock band Cimarron of Hermiston will play hits from the 1940s all the way to current favorites.
"It's for people tied to McNary to have a chance to get back together, share memories and spend time together. And also for current employees to get an idea of where we were," said Marlene Freels, project manager for the 50th anniversary celebration.
Tickets are limited to 200 because of space limitations at the Eagles Lodge.
Tickets for the McNary Dam social can be purchased for $20 by calling (541) 922-2252 or (541) 922-2219.
On the Web: www.nww. usace.army.mil