An Alpine Fourth
By Gary VanDeWalker
story: Gary VanDeWalker
Mt Shasta Celebrates The 4th Of July
Over a four-hour span, more than 5,000 people will walk amid an array of people on stilts, rock bands, opera singers and food vendors under the shadow of sun-drenched Mt. Shasta. This two-mile stretch of road, in the town named after the looming mountain, has hosted this event every Fourth of July for the past 30 years.
John Thelander and his family moved to this community in 1991 to escape the urban sprawl of Southern California. Three years later, Thelander was approached by the Mountain Runners to help put on their portion of the community’s Fourth of July event. He transitioned from selling t-shirts to coordinating the Mountain Runners’ two-mile Walk and Run.
The Mount Shasta Fourth of July is a journey into the small-town celebrations of a century ago. This year’s three-day event, July 2-4, is marked by a pancake breakfast, the Walk-Run, an old-fashioned noontime parade and an evening of fireworks over Lake Siskiyou. A downtown street is blocked off and filled with food, merchants and music which ends with dancing in the evening hours.
The holiday is hosted by different entities. “Several different groups make it all happen,” Thelander says. “It’s a traditional small-town Fourth of July, where people set aside their differences and come together as a community.” The city of 3,500 swells to more than 10,000 as people come for a close-knit Independence Day. “What I like best is that here people of all walks of life and capabilities get together and have a good time,” Thelander adds.
The Fourth of July Fun Run and Walk consists of three events. The first group to leave is the five-mile runners, followed by the two-mile runners, then the two-mile walkers. Thelander is in charge of the first two miles of the course. He arrives at 5 am to set up 300 traffic cones to create two lanes for the participants. His team of 30 volunteers does a staggering job of organization. Along with coordinating the actual runners and walkers, a tremendous amount of entertainment is provided along the two-mile route. Music is provided by rock bands, bluegrass groups, classical instruments, church choirs, and last year, an opera singer. Local restaurants provide food and drink along the path. Local doctor Tom Morris parachutes into the event each year. Wheelchairs with people from the hospital care center line the sidewalk, cheering on the runners passing by.
The Mountain Runners use the proceeds from the Fourth of July to accomplish ambitious projects in the surrounding area. Improvements to the community include old-fashioned street lights, a clock and a beautified central entrance to Mount Shasta. Area sports programs are also supported by the Runners. In the future, plans are being drafted for a series of bike paths in McCloud.
The July holiday is a peak experience for the community. It comes and goes like a series of fireworks, a brief but brilliant three days. Thelander says, “It’s a rush. It’s like a sporting event. You warm up, there is the competition and it’s over. It amazes me we can take a major part of the city and put 5,000 people there in about four hours and show them an amazing holiday.”