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Two Oregon Coast History Curiosities: Nye Beach, Lincoln City's Redhead Roundup

Published 08/18/2018 at 4:27 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection Staff

Two Oregon Coast History Curiosities: Nye Beach, Lincoln City's Redhead Roundup

(Newport, Oregon) – History is full of all kinds of funky little oddities and quirky tidbits, especially in light of the current culture of the times (which, ironically, will feel equally as funky to others in the future). (Above: photo courtesy North Lincoln County Historical Museum).

On the central Oregon coast, there’s lots of that. Only 100 years ago the region was still a kind of pioneer settlement that was only just acquiring a tourism industry. It was still so rough-edged it’s hard to even call it “rural.”

Two curiosities of the Oregon coast’s past typify this in different ways. One takes place in Newport 100 years ago, the other in Lincoln City just before the war.

Above: a traffic jam in the '30s caused by the Redhead Roundup (courtesy North Lincoln County History Museum).

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Redhead Roundup Festival. History is dotted with all sorts of things we wouldn’t exactly do today.

On the borderline of that is a somewhat cringe-inducing yet amusing bit of trivia regarding a yearly event which took place on the central Oregon coast: the Redhead Roundup. It was a kind of beauty contest that actually honored red-haired women. And it did at least honor all body types, though its approach would be considered tacky today.

By and large the Redhead Roundup was harmless and really kind of funny now.

According to the North Lincoln County Historical Museum, the Redhead Roundup was started by Taft resident and businessman Manville Robison in 1931 (back before there was a Lincoln City), who owned a popular restaurant at the time called the Green Anchor in the tiny village.

It quickly gained in popularity, and within a few short years it had become a full two-day summer festival, bringing in some 25,000 visitors at times. In 1935, it attracted 15,000 people.

The focus was, however, the girls. Museum curator Jeff Syrop wrote: “There were also contests for beauty, reddest hair, plumpest redhead, longest red hair, and more. The only stipulation to participate was that you had to have natural red hair.”

Syrop said that women from other states showed up to be a part of the event.

Still, it soon attached other attractions such as rides, parades, dances, and games. It was known to create massive traffic jams throughout tiny Taft. This was back when Highway 101 had just been built, but even then most of the streets in Taft were still gravel.

It only lasted ten years, however. Syrop said: “The last Redhead Roundup was in 1941 when WWII brought gas rationing and a ‘no large crowds during war’ policy.”

After the war, there were several attempts to bring back the festival throughout the decades, but none of them were a success. The idea is dead today. See the exhibit on the Redhead Roundup at the history museum in Lincoln City.

Above: the Nye Beach Clambake in the 1910s, photo courtesy Lincoln County Historical Society, Newport.

Newport’s Nye Beach is a nice mixture of history you can still see and fascinating historical aspects no longer visible. These days, its remodeling in the last decade gives it a sense of old town Americana and of old Europe to some degree.

About 100 years ago, this burgeoning beach resort exploded rather quickly, in spite of the limitations of people getting here from the valley. Back then, it was a separate community from Newport connected only by a muddy road with wooden planks to assist driving.

It was called the “Honeymoon Capital of the World” at that time, with a truly sizable number of newlyweds coming through. Just down the beach, a massive structure called Jump-Off Joe provided wind-sheltered makeout spots for the romancers, as well as photo opps for thousands of beachgoers over its 20-year existence. It crumbled by the ‘40s and another cliff next to it acquired that name Jump-Off Joe – and it still has it.

Back then, where the Nye Beach Turnaround is now, there was a wooden promenade very similar to that which Seaside acquired around the same time. While this one was much shorter, it too had a natatorium (hot salt water bath) and some other tourist attractions. There was a ramp going down to the beach then, and often the beach was full of parked cars packed with vacationers.

One of the big yearly features of this small Oregon coast resort was the Nye Beach Clambake. Many of these took place on the beach, with wooden tables loaded with food. Clams were cooked in the sand inside a fire pit surrounded by rocks and with seaweed thrown in.

The last one was apparently held in 1918, and then briefly resurrected in the early 2000’s as the Nye Beach Clambake, just as the neighborhood finished up its remodeling process. Oregon Coast Lodgings in these areas - Where to eat - Maps - Virtual Tours

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