By Paul Daquilante • Staff Writer • 

Willamina ready to light the sky

News-Register file photoArm wrestlers Donovan Williams and Jaymes Bannorseall put some muscle into it during last year’s Old-Fashioned Fourth of July festival.
News-Register file photo
Arm wrestlers Donovan Williams and Jaymes Bannorseall put some muscle into it during last year’s Old-Fashioned Fourth of July festival.

This year it’s $7,500. It’s been as much as $9,000 in the past, but in the eyes of a pyrotechnic, Flynn said, no amount ever seems enough.

“We like to blow stuff up,” said Flynn, who is preparing this year’s spectacle, to be staged at dusk on the Fourth at the West Valley Community Campus.

Spectator seating will be in the high school football grandstand, on the football field itself and in the surrounding area.

With no fireworks planned in either Amity or McMinnville this year, Willamina is where all the snap, crackle and pop will take place on the Fourth in the Yamhill Valley.

However, the St. Paul Rodeo will feature fireworks after every show, from Wednesday through Saturday.

“I didn’t know there weren’t going to be any (other) fireworks until someone told me,” Flynn said. “It’s adds some pressure to our show.

“It’s exciting. Maybe a whole bunch more people will come out. That would be great.”

Flynn, who holds general operators certification issued by the state Fire Marshal’s Office, is assisted by her brother, Jimmy Colton, and Gary Giddings of Sheridan. Others individuals have helped out over the years.

“I’ve been involved for 13 years,” said Flynn, who grew up in the West Valley and has been watching the Fourth of July show in Willamina since she was a youngster.

“I remember sitting in the high school football stadium grandstand and watching. I would go with family. We would watch the parade on Main Street and do the fireworks at night.”

They purchase their fireworks from Western Display Fireworks, located in Canby. The company is a large manufacturer and distributor of fireworks, and Flynn received her training through the company.

Western Display contacts Flynn every March and inquires about the size of the budget for that year’s show. Within a month, she said, the company sends out a product list — fireworks it will provide based on the money Willamina has to spend.

Once she approves the list, Western Display sends her a contract for the purchase.

“By the end of May, the product list is designed,” Flynn said. “We sit on it until the Fourth, and then put the show together.”

Planning for the big day has been, in part, the result of organizing shows over the years.

“The morning of the Fourth, we pull out the product list and set the show up,” Flynn said. “Factoring in our experience, there are not a lot of hiccups or bumps.”

Flynn said she estimates this year’s show will last 20 to 25 minutes, which she said is about average. She’s heard of displays lasting just 10 or 15 minutes.

This year’s Willamina show will feature about 900 fireworks ranging in size from 2.5 to 5 inches, according to Flynn. Get ready for a “crackling coconut with a titanium salute,” a “multi-colored peony,” a “chrysanthemum to crackling rain” and a “starfish twinkling silver with a silver tail,” she said.

Flynn said the Fourth is a long and exciting day for her, Colton, Giddings and anyone else who assists in putting on the event. They will arrive at the site at 8 a.m., wait for their fireworks to be delivered, then assemble the show.

It’s ready to go by 7:30 or 8 that night. She and her crew love entertaining the large crowd, which has begun to assemble by then.

“We all get excited,” she said. “When we can hear the crowd, it amps us up even more.

“We hear people cheering and it sets our hearts on fire. It’s amazing.”

In all the years she and the others have produced the show, they’ve never had time to enjoy the events that take place throughout the Willamina community on the Fourth — not even the popular parade, which will start at 6 from the old Conifer Plywood Mill site on East Main Street and head west.

Former Willamina High School FFA advisor and ag teacher Roy Whitman, who retired after last year, will be the grand marshal. He taught in the Amity and Willamina districts for 31 years.

“We miss out on the family time, but we do this for the community,” said Flynn, who has boys 12 and 9. “I tell my kids I’m setting off big fireworks for them and the rest of the town gets to watch.”

Willamina’s Fourth celebration technically begins July 3 with a barbecue and music by Countryside Ride at 6:30 p.m. at Lamson Park.

On the big day, the fun starts with a 7 a.m. breakfast staged by the West Valley Kiwanis Club at Fendall Hall. It continues with a fun run, logging show, car show, horseshoe pitching competition, valve cover racing, kids’ zone, pony rides, logging jamboree, arm wrestling tourney and much more.



  • What: Willamina Old-Fashioned Fourth of July
  • When: Thursday and Friday, July 3 and 4
  • Where: Throughout the community
  • How: Thursday, July 3: Community barbecue with music by Countryside Ride, Lamson Park, 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 4: Kiwanis breakfast, Fendall Hall, 7 a.m.; 5K fun run, Willamina High School, 8 a.m.; vendor row, B Street, 9 a.m.; pony rides, D Street, 9 a.m.; car show, West Valley Community Campus, 9 a.m. with judging at 1 p.m.; logging jamboree, Walsh Trucking, 9:30 a.m.; valve cover races, Kids Zone, adjacent to City Hall, 10 a.m.; horseshoe competition, Willamina High School, 10 a.m.; display by REACH Air Medical Services and West Valley Fire District, West Valley Community Campus, 11 a.m.; arm wrestling competition, gazebo, 2 p.m.; parade down Main Street from old Conifer Plywood Mill site, 6 p.m., preceded by judging at 5; fireworks show, West Valley Community Campus, dusk.
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