It’s the big-bang day with celebrations around the county and a huge all-day show at the Fort Vancouver Historic Site.
This is the second year of what is called a family-friendly event at Vancouver’s fort, with an accent on history. But there will be plenty of music and a 25-minute fireworks show at 10 p.m.
Are they ready for more than 35,000 guests? Well, there are 450 volunteers, 16 food booths, and 155 portable toilets (17 of them ADA-approved) lined up.
Cap’n Mac is back at the fort again this year to give folks the thrill of their lives in his 1929 open-cockpit TravelAir C4000. Dr. Stu MacPherson, 64, a dentist by trade, has been giving the rides on Vancouver’s Fourth of July since 1988. He lives near San Diego, but he actually lives to fly.
It took him five years to restore the classic airplane. He said he started coming to Vancouver after Judge John Wulle, a pilot, invited him years ago.
It costs $75 for adults and $55 for children for the exhilarating 20-minute ride that circles to Ridgefield and over the Columbia River before landing at historic Pearson Field.
MacPherson said one rider told him, “It’s like riding a Harley through the air.” The captain added, “Your typical biker thrills and freedom.”
He keeps a guest book and one rider wrote: “The most fun you can have with your pants on.”
He said he keeps coming back to Vancouver because it has “such wonderful people and such wonderful scenery. On a day like today, we call it a five-mountain day — Hood, St. Helens, Rainier, Adams and Jefferson.”
The rides will be available today from 10 a.m. to about 8 p.m. and the fee includes a 3-month membership to the Pearson Air Museum.
The TravelAir is a former crop duster whose two tanks hold 43 gallons of gas — at $5.65 a gallon, the captain said.
And, yes, he flew the plane up from the San Diego area. The TravelAir is worth more than $120,000, MacPherson said, “But it’s priceless to me.”
At the museum
If you go for a ride, the new manager of the Pearson Air Museum hopes you will visit him. Admission on the Fourth has been reduced to $3 for an adult and $5 for a family.
Laureano Mier formerly worked at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Ore. He said he is ecstatic about the displays in the Pearson Museum and says it’s your chance to see the nation’s “oldest historic hangar that still houses airplanes.”
Mier says you shouldn’t miss the one-third replica of the Gelatine airship that famed pilot Lincoln Beachey flew into Pearson Field in 1905. Beachey, whom Orville Wright called “the greatest flier of all” was carrying mail on that day.
Around the historic site you’ll find children’s activities, a black-powder demonstration and actor Steve Holgate portraying Abraham Lincoln.
Admission to the reconstructed Fort Vancouver, which dates to 1825, is $5 for families, $3 for people 16 and older, and free for children.
The historic site also has a visitors center and bookstore. The historic Marshall House will be open for tours.
At the food booths, Dirk Theuvenet of Papa Murphy’s Pizza said he hopes to outdo last year, when he sold 1,200 slices.
“We ran out about 8:30 last year, so this year we’re doubling that,” said Theuvenet, the company’s regional manager.