Battle Ground Harvest Days looks to recapture mojo

Organizers hope to regenerate interest by bringing back several popular events

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

Published:

 
photoThe 53rd annual Battle Ground Harvest Days will feature a car cruise and designated burnout pit on Friday night.

()

If you go

What: Battle Ground Harvest Days, 53rd annual community festival with a carnival, car cruise (including a burnout pit), parades, several runs, a beer garden, an art show, music, a talent show and a geocaching challenge.

Where: Fairgrounds Park, 912 E. Main St., Battle Ground.

When: Noon to 11 p.m. Friday; 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Cost: Free; $28 for all-day carnival wristband; $10 to $15 for car cruise registration; $70 to $80 for half marathon; $40 to $45 for 8K; $30 for family run.

Information: http://battlegroundchamber.org

Back in its heyday — or perhaps its hay day — the Battle Ground Harvest Days celebration drew crowds of 10,000 to 20,000 to a family-centric party with carnival attractions, parades, car cruising and even a little hometown religion.

In recent years, as the celebration moved from location to location, events were removed, attendance dwindled and the excitement seemed to fade.

But that's about to change, said Carrie Schulstad, executive director of the Battle Ground Chamber of Commerce, which runs the event.

"It was a pretty strong community event for many years," Schulstad said. "Over the last several years, it lost some of its gusto. But now we're back in Fairgrounds Park and we're bringing it back to what it once was."

The talent show, 4-H exhibits, kids games, carnival rides, country bands, a car cruise and a host of other activities are returning to this year's event, under the "Wild, Wild West" theme.

Car enthusiasts heading to downtown Vancouver for Saturday's Cruisin the Gut event will also have a chance to do burnouts -- something strictly banned in Vancouver -- in a designated burnout pit at the Friday night Car Cruise from 7 to 10 p.m. on Battle Ground's Main Street.

"The thing that's cool about Battle Ground is that we authentically love cars," Schulstad said. "The is the first year we've had a burnout pit, but people are very excited about it."

Portland-based country bands Concrete Cowboys and Flexor T will perform on the main stage Saturday night, after a day of parades, rides, art shows and demonstrations.

"One of the other things we're really proud of is we're bringing back free kids activities," she said. "Those include field games, panning for gold, milking a cow and other things with a Western theme."

The chamber is also adding a church and worship service based on "The Story of Battle Ground" on the main stage at 11 a.m. Sunday.

"People have been asking us for that and we decided to bring it back," Schulstad said. "It's going to be non-denominational and faith-based, but it will also tell our story."

A bagpipe band and faith-based singers will play before the service starts.

July might seem like an odd time for a harvest festival, but there is a reason for it, said Battle Ground historian Louise Tucker, 77.

"There was a lot of farming and haying in Battle Ground when it started," Tucker said. "It was a celebration after the first hay cut, and a time to relax after the strawberries and raspberries were mostly picked."

When she was growing up, the area was dominated by hay and other farms, she said. Today, much of that is gone, replaced by houses.

"At one time, we had a very competitive tug of war going for Harvest Days," she said. "It was a good place for kids and teenagers. The carnival rides were always popular."

They also had games where kids would try to catch a greased pig or climb a greased pole to get to a $20 bill at the top, she said.

"It was very messy, but it was great to watch," Tucker said. "Probably, the moms who had to clean the clothes put a stop to that."

Tucker will be at Harvest Days working the book sale this year, she added.

"It's a fun time to kick back, see old friends and make new ones," she said.

Schulstad hopes folks from all over Clark County come by and check it out.

"We would like everybody to come," Schulstad said. "The weather's supposed to be great, we've got a ton of new things this year and it's going to be a load of fun."