Tubs of fun await at Camas Days

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

Published:

 

If you go

What: Camas Days, 40th annual festival with vendors, arts and crafts, a kids street, a wine and microbrew street, the Grand Parade and bathtub races.

Where: Downtown Camas.

When: Vendors and food court open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Wine and Microbrew Street open 5 to 11 p.m. July 25 and 26. Grand Parade begins at 11 a.m. July 26. Bathtub Races begin at 1 p.m. July 26 at Fourth and Franklin. Duck Derby, which isn't an official Camas Days event, is at noon July 27 at the Third Avenue bridge. Other event times vary.

Cost: Free.

Information:www.cwchamber.com/cwdata/CamasDays/tabid/68/Default.aspx

Nobody knows who first decided to transform an old claw-foot bathtub into a wheeled steerable racer, but whoever it was surely deserves a place in the Camas Days hall of fame.

The two-day festival, which includes a parade, street fair, beer and wine garden, and a host of other events, will celebrate its 40th year with a wide array of family-friendly events, including the classic bathtub race, said Brent Erickson, who directs the festivities as part of the Camas-Washougal Chamber of Commerce.

"Back in the 1980s when I was a volunteer firefighter, I used to participate in the bathtub races," Erickson, 55, said. "That was cold, cold water. Driving, you just hope you don't tip over."

The tubs, which have wheels attached along the sides, a steering bar and a brake, are pushed by two team members — with a third sitting in a tub of ice-cold water. The races have been part of the event since the 1970s, when a 4x4 group called The Washougal Bunch first created them, said Aaron Lutz, owner of Lutz Hardware and a club member.

"We took two bathtubs, filled them with ice water from the deepest, darkest fire hydrant in Camas or Washougal, took eight teams mostly from local businesses and had head-to-head matches," said Lutz, who organizes the races each year.

His hardware store team had quite the run of success in the '80s and '90s, netting about eight trophies, Lutz said.

He doesn't compete anymore, but the event is something that local kids especially love watching every year, he said.

"During the race, the fire department is filling those tubs with their hose, and in between they shoot it up in the air, and all the kids run under to cool off," Lutz said. "It's awesome to watch."

The Grand Parade, which starts at 11 a.m. July 26, is probably the signature event, even though there's lots of other fun to be had at Camas Days, Erickson said.

"For me, when I was a kid, I always just loved watching the parade," Erickson said. "Back when there were about 6,000 people in town, and everybody knew everybody, it was just great. And as I got older, I started to love the beer garden. It's great to see everybody."

One of Lutz's favorite Camas Days activities when he was young took place in an area with several bales of hay. Organizers would toss about $40 worth of change into the pile, and kids would dive through the hay looking for coins.

"I used to love doing that, but we haven't done it for a few years," Lutz said. "Those were really fun."

Last year, the event drew about 12,000 people to downtown Camas over two days. This year looks to be about the same or perhaps even a little bigger, he said.

"It's wall-to-wall people," Erickson said. "Last year, we also had three class reunions come out."

The festival, which started in 1974, is part street fair, part beer garden, part kids playground and part homecoming.

"It got started as a sidewalk sale for downtown businesses, but Camas has always had a parade," Erickson said. "The parade goes back to the Camas Paper Festival and eventually kind of morphed into this."

The event includes several new arts and crafts vendors, 17 food vendors and kids street, which has a rock climbing wall, jump house, caterpillar crawl and a slide.

Lutz said it's something he looks forward to all year — because it's a great place to show off his hometown.

"I love Camas Days," Lutz said. "I think it's awesome."