The fireworks don’t get started until a little after 10 p.m., but people began pouring onto the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site around noon Monday to find the perfect spot. Fortunately, there was plenty of entrainment to keep them busy as the hours ticked by.
Vendors sold food. Bands played at a stage on East Fifth Street, pulsing catchy music across the scene. At the north end of the fields, volunteers kept children busy with rubber-band-propelled rockets, gliders, hula hoops and plenty of events, including three-legged races, water balloon tosses and Simon Says.
“We’re out here until 8, so we’ve got a lot of time to kill and we’re coming up with a lot of stuff on the fly,” said volunteer Danielle Cooper.
Overhead, antique airplanes buzzed through the air after taking off from Pearson Field, cruising Fort visitors over the city for 20 minutes before picking up the next batch.
Roni MacPherson and her husband, Stewart “Cap’n Mac” MacPherson, who flies a 1927 biplane, live in Southern California, but they have been coming to the Fort for its Fourth of July events for the last 28 years because of their strong ties to the area. Roni MacPherson learned to fly in Vancouver.
Visitors pushed strollers and pulled coolers as they settled in and waited for sunset.
Samantha Marquez grew up in Vancouver and has been coming to the Fort to watch the fireworks since she was little. Now she’s carrying on the tradition with her own family.
Last year, she and her husband, Pedro Marquez, and their two little girls came to the Fort a little late in the evening to watch the fireworks, but the only open space was up around the tall trees near the back of the field. This year they made it a point to avoid the same fate.
Like several hundred others, they arrived before 1 p.m. and staked out a prime patch of grass.
“We came early to get a spot we liked,” she said while sitting under a big blue umbrella as a band played from the stage about 100 yards away. “Then we went up to the kids’ area and scouted out food for tonight. … It’s nice to hang out.”
Portland resident Frank Harris said traffic is a big reason why he hasn’t been to the Fort Vancouver fireworks show since 1992. But this year he and a friend paid the extra $60 per person to sit down next to the Pearson Air Museum in the prime viewing section. That section included its own stage and a dinner buffet served that evening.
“We didn’t even come with the VIP section in mind,” he said at about 3 p.m. “We’re here because there’s a musician we wanted to see.”
Dinner wouldn’t start for another three hours, and the fireworks for another seven, but the two spectators, seated around a big table, said they were doing just fine chatting and watching the day go by.
“I’d rather show up early and enjoy myself than show up late and deal with the chaos,” Harris said.