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Kooky Tales, Impressions and Confessions from the 4th on Oregon Coast

Published 07/04/22 at 5:05 AM PST
Photos and Article By Andre' GW Hagestedt

Kooky Tales and Confessions from the 4th on Oregon Coast

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(Oregon Coast) – Fourth of July on the Oregon coast is an interesting mixed bag. There's a wild and engaging energy to it, at least there was always for me. For a long time I found all the crowds both an annoyance and a kick in the pants, especially after the fireworks shows were over and we'd hit the bars. That's where tons of people made it interesting. And during the fireworks shows on the beaches, being part of those throngs was a bit like a rock concert. Yet there was that claustrophobic overcrowding and horrific traffic to deal with, and frankly I eventually gave up on the Fourth on the beach. (Above: Yachats. All photos Andre' GW Hagestedt)

However, there are some kooky tales to tell, including what those shows were like.

First off, I'll have admit it and come clean: I was one of those fireworks maniacs that people hate this time of year. And Oregon State Parks would've despised me. I loved the mortars and crazy stuff from Washington. That, admittedly, was much of the adventure. Watching some of my favorite dogs freak out over fireworks has cured me of that need for what goes boom, however.


Waldport

The wild times we had tilting mortars at an angle over Siletz Bay so they'd fire out at a low arc: well, it's still kind of hilarious to remember these ill-advised experiments in bad rocketry. Being in the midst of hundreds of others doing the same thing was a riot and part of that energy. This last decade or so, every year I'd have to write something warning visitors about the pitfalls of doing this on the beach. I can say State Parks' warnings are true: bad stuff can happen. I can attest to this personally, though I'm not going to go into details (it wasn't too serious, however).


Seaside

For a long time, you could do Depoe Bay's fireworks on the third, Lincoln City or others on the fourth, and Pacific City held theirs on the fifth. Depoe Bay eventually stopped their show because of bird conservation concerns, which is commendable. Yet it's one of my best memories: hunkering down at North Point, away from the crowds, and watching the smallish but entertaining kabooms to the south. One year, we grabbed glow sticks and 3D glasses. That was a trip.

Pacific City's fireworks I've only seen once, but it was remarkable. The giant bursts of light and the explosive flashes that propelled them created stark, weird and gigantic shadows and colors on Cape Kiwanda. It was like something out of sci-fi.


Rockaway Beach

Manzanita's show was always a hoot, but half of that was the drinking before and after. A wacky bar named Gale's back then was our haunt of choice, a glorious dive if there ever was one. In the early 2000s, Oregon coast bars were at the fore of being really laidback about bringing in your dogs. It was like a petting zoo but with liquor. Fun-o-rama.

Rockaway Beach's fireworks shows have always been respectable for such a small town. The great aspect here was you could be pretty far north or south on the beach and you could still see everything just fine.


Rockaway Beach

Plus, there was less traffic and less of that segment of visitors that were annoying and entitled. Most visitors are lovely, but there's almost always some amount of the archetypal “ugly American tourist” out there.

The bars in Rockaway Beach would simply explode with activity. One standout moment is the enormous conga line of sauced booty-shakers that formed inside one tiny bar. Impressive.

Seaside's display is massive, and always seemed to me not far behind Vancouver's monster shows. Here, the Prom was often frighteningly packed, yet you had to walk through this gauntlet no matter your chosen spot. So many illegal fireworks were going off it was sometimes difficult to tell when the real ones started. This was awe-inspiring but also not cool.

I know of at least one biz on the Prom where someone had to hang out on the roof to make sure private explosives didn't catch the building on fire.

Still, shooting the show from the Prom made for interesting visuals with its lamps.

The tiny town of Waldport has always shot theirs off on the third, and one year I finally made it. Hiding just next to the bridge, I found a killer vantage point to photograph what is a pretty decent show. The colors reflected on the bay made truly vibrant effects.

Down south in Yachats, this one is also considerable for its size. I had initially set up my gear within a block or two of the launch point at the big wayside. It turns out that was too close: those bursts in mid-air were too high from here.

Scooting back a couple blocks, the view improved. Like this shot of the central Oregon coast town's waters turning funky shades of green, red, orange and others. Look closely: the sea resembles salt water taffy.

Traffic getting back to my room in Newport was a nightmare, so I pulled over at one wayside and took freaky experimental night photos on the beach. Nice serendipity there. And I think I actually got home sooner by waiting for traffic to thin out than by being in it.

Just a word of advise for your next Fourth experience on the coast.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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