North Bend has long celebrated a summer festival, no matter what the name was, and whether there was such a place as North Bend or not. Historical records show that the town celebrated the Fourth of July in 1906, three years before the area officially incorporated.
Since then, the city has celebrated most years, in a variety of ways and with a variety of names. According to local historian Dave Battey’s 1991 article, “Life Before Alpine Days,” in the 1920s, it was a spring celebration called Trout Day, marking the opening of fishing season.
“In 1924 a Tent Show, with freaks, was a summer feature,” the article stated, “but the big draw for the Eastside in the mid to late ‘20s was the Issaquah Rodeo and Wild West Show, which drew a crowd estimated at 8,000-plus in 1924.”
Grange Harvest Fair
The fate of the festival in the late ’20s is unknown, or at least unrecorded in the Valley Record archive, but in 1932, the Sallal Grange launched its first annual Grange Harvest Fair, which continued for more than a decade.
“Sallal Grange sponsored the event, chaired by George B. Gaines and assisted by George Whipple, Mrs. H. P. Sherwood of Snoqualmie, Mrs. D. P. Phillips, and William Weller,” Battey wrote. “Inside exhibit space was donated by the Masonic Lodge. Emphasis was on the raising, exhibiting and preservation of Valley produce and livestock (livestock for this very first fair was limited to rabbits and chickens!).”
In its second year, the fair moved into a larger space at the Snoqualmie School District, but eventually returned to North Bend.
A new celebration was launched in 1947, when the newly formed Snoqualmie Valley Riding Club (it turns 70 next year) started an annual Jamboree of riding events, which gradually expanded to include, according to the Record archive, a river race and the naming of a pageant queen.
From Battey’s article: “Ray Noble was chosen as Master of Ceremonies, and F. C. Baker and G. E. Masterson were the judges. The riders attracted the North Bend Chamber of Commerce, the North Bend Volunteer Fire Department, and Snoqualmie Valley Kiwanis as co-sponsors.
“A big parade was scheduled for 11 a.m. and North Bend Post 9476, VFW, invited the 50 member Veterans of Foreign Wars drum and bugle corps from Tacoma. Ed Bassett, director of the Mount Si High band, notified vacationing young musicians to meet for a special practice in the school auditorium the evening before the event. Parade judges included Mrs. W. R. Beckwith and Mrs. N. L. Urdahl.
“The next year, on July 2, 1949, the Second Annual Jamboree engaged the whole Valley in a Jamboree Queen contest, with seven entrants. Popular votes elected Betty Doherty as queen and Ruth Kniseley and Valerie Thomas as princesses. The event drew over 4,000 persons.
“Parade announcer Ray Noble was assisted by Fred Lewis. Cash money of $25, $10, and $5 was given for the best floats, judged by Mrs. E. S. Hill, R. W. Vinnedge, and Harold Keller.
“A special feature of the parade was the inclusion of many North Bend pioneers, based on their having been in the Valley prior to the arrival of the railroad in 1889. The pioneers were: Alice Rachor (born here in 1872), Alexander Gardiner (1883), Mrs. Andrew McCann (1884), Mrs. Philo Jackson (1884) … Joseph Boxley (1888), Mrs. Charles Carpenter (1888), and William and Otto Mueller (1889).”
Jamboree Days had faded by the mid ‘60s, to be replaced by a River Festival, then Alpine Days in 1972.
The first Alpine Days, Battey wrote, “featured baseball, golf and swimming; displays by the Grange and Mosaic Club; a big state horse show; a crab feed; motorcycle and raft races; and, of course, the grand parade.
“In the second year of the festival, men all over town shaved their heads bald to draw attention to upcoming events. In 1974, when the festival was moving into August, beards were the thing.
“The Valley Record reported, ‘although this may raise havoc between husbands and wives in North Bend, it probably will no cause any more uproar than the skinhead haircut did a year ago, although it is admittedly easier to kiss a fellow with no hair on than it is to kiss a fellow with a shaggy growth on his face.’”
The festival known as Alpine Days, focused on the Bavarian Alps theme that downtown North Bend was adopting, evolved over the years, along with the city. The name change, to Festival at Mount Si in 2005, although still disparaged by some longtime residents, was long overdue, say others.
North Bend had decided to move away from the Bavarian theme, and rebrand itself as a recreation destination, Jill Massengill recalled, and “We wanted to support the city in the rebranding.”
Massengill, a member on the festival committee then and today’s Festival at Mount Si chairperson, added that the festival was always in competition for vendors, entertainment and other attractions with Snoqualmie’s Railroad Days, which is just a week later on the summer schedule. There had been talk, years ago, about combining the two events.
Although that never happened and is unlikely to in the future, Massengill said that led the committee to consider names that weren’t specific to a city. However, Mount Si has always been a top tourist attraction, she added, so the name change highlighting that location was approved.
Naturally, some people still call the event Alpine Days, but also naturally, everyone knows they mean the Festival at Mount Si.
Learn more about this weekend’s festival at www.festivalatmtsi.org.