Woodland Planter's Days

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Photo of Margaret Hepola

The following information was published in the Battle Ground Reflector in April and May of 1997 and was provided to me by Walter E. Hansen Sr. Edited, condensed and reproduced here with his approval.
Judy Card, reproducer of works of historical content

By Walter E. Hansen, Sr.

In 1919, money was raised for dikes and a Diking district was created to build dikes to protect the city of Woodland as well as the low land "bottoms." In previous years, flooding in the Woodland area occurred almost every year, with some years worse than others.

In 1920, the dikes did not hold and Woodland flooded again. In 1921, the dikes held, and in 1922, after holding for one year, the Planter Day celebrations was held on June 30, 1922. This was a real celebration because farmers could get their crops in early without fear of flooding. Thus the name "Planters Day." The town people also had reason to celebrate as their stores and homes did not flood.

The dikes broke in 1933, 1948 and partially in 1964, and were reinforced. In Feb. 1996, we had a major flood in the Woodland area, but the dikes held to protect the area west of I-5.

First Celebration

H. W. Mitchell was elected as the director for the first Planter Day celebration, and was given the duty of devoting as much time as necessary to put on one of the best times ever had in Woodland. The original celebration was called Planter Day and was a one day celebration. It has over the years become Planter's Days and lasts for four days.

A barbecue, ball game, dance, field events, races and other sports, as well as a trip up the valley were conducted. Everything was free to the public, paid for by businesses, including entertainment and a noon lunch. Stores closed for part of the day, and the city was dolled up in gala attire.

Planter's Day was the biggest event ever held in Woodland with about 2,000 people present. A dike tour was conducted with automobiles furnished by Woodland car owners, showing people the wonderful crops growing on the low lands such as 9-foot wheat, hay, potatoes and grain. Forty people came by boat from Kalama.

The formal program for the day included songs. The barbecue was cooked by Ira Belsucker of Amboy with 515 pounds of meat. Kalama won the ball game, 19-7, over Woodland. Winners in the youth sporting events included Stewart Bryant, Rollie Mills, Willavere Sheltus, Laura Newkirk, Albert Gray, Emory Long, Billy Leman, Kenneth Barr, and Arthur Griffith.

Ralph Backert won the fat man's race, with Andy Ashcraft second, and the greased pig was caught by Earl Drum.

Prizes were awarded to stores for their tasteful window displays.

The evening dance was sponsored by R. W. Mills and the Farmers Cooperative Trading Co. About 500 people attended the dance, with music by the Hune Brothers orchestra.

A lot has happened in the last 75 years of Planter's Days to make this celebration one of the oldest continuous community celebrations in the Pacific Northwest.

It's hard to believe it started before the city of Longview even existed.

It would be impossible to name all the people who have made the celebration so successful over all these years.

The purpose of the festival is the same as it has always been. The idea is to bring everyone together; community spirit and good times are what it's all about. It's a chance to say "hi" to those you haven't had a chance to see for awhile.

In 1926, Planter's Days had it's first carnival which was set up at the Cowlitz County Fairgrounds. Yes, the county fair was at Woodland in those days, located at the bend of the Lewis River which is now the bend of Horseshoe Lake down by what is now Woodland Convalescent Home between the lake and Pekin Road.

The tour of the dike was eventually replaced with a parade. In 1932, the Woodland city council asked the Woodland volunteer fire department, which was formed in 1925 and was becoming a strong association, to take over the management of Planter's Days. By this time it had become a three day event.

In 1937, it was decided that the celebration should have a queen. Six organizations all sponsored princesses to compete for queen. They were the Junior Women's Club who sponsored Helen Button, the Senior Women's Club who sponsored Phyllis Wall, the Young Men's Club who sponsored Marie Goerig, the American Legion and Auxiliary who sponsored Calverna Simonis, the Woodland Grange who sponsored Marjorie Allen, and the Finnish Society who sponsored Vivian Mikkola.

The young lady with the highest number of votes would become queen. Large pictures of princesses were posted on windows of the telephone office on Davidson Ave. with the results posted on a daily basis. The entire town cleaned and painted store fronts to get ready for the first royal event.

The last week before the big event saw Phyllis Wall and Marie Goerig alternating the lead on Friday, the day before the coronation. When the final count was done on Planter's Days, Phyllis Wall was in the lead by a few votes and she was crowned queen just before the big parade.

Phyllis Wall Murray is now deceased. First runner-up Marie Goerig McDowell will represent the 75th anniversary queen coronation.

In 1938, the world was on the brink of war, and the men were entering the service of their country. But Planter's Days continued.

Four women were candidates for queen. They were Oleta Wray, sponsored by the Young Men's and Women's Club; Jennie Tulska, sponsored by the Finnish Society; Marjorie Scotton, sponsored by the American Legion and Auxiliary; and Marjorie Mathews, sponsored by the Artisans.

Tulska led most of the way only to lose to Oleta Wray in the last few days. Queen Oleta is now deceased.

The Smitt Carnival Company conducted a 3-day carnival. A boat regatta at the bend of the Lewis River in 1937 was the forerunner of today's events on Horseshoe Lake. It was canceled in 1938, however, because of fear of liability to the city.

But there was fun for all with the baseball game, played by an adult team named the Woodland Planters.

Two-man teams from area fire departments held water fights.

Shirley Heister Stevens, crown bearer during the queen's coronation, still lives in Woodland.

Prizes were awarded for parade entrants. Gene Tangen received $1.50 for first place in bicycles.

Advertising on Longview radio was done every day of the 3-day event.

The carnival paid $100 plus 15 percent of gross receipts to the Woodland volunteer fire department who managed the celebration at the time.

Mayor Fred Schroeder announced that Woodland was standing on the threshold of development with industry near.

The 1939 celebration was just as eventful as previous years, with three candidates for queen: June Lehman was sponsored by the young Men's and Junior Women's Club, Grace Bozarth was sponsored by he Lions Club, Edna Rengo was sponsored by the Finnish Society, and Barbara Bozarth was sponsored by the American Legion. Grace Bozarth (Bergstrom) won and still lives in Woodland.

Before the coronation, the Daughters of the American Revolution commemorated the 50th anniversary of the town of Woodland, formed in 1889 and incorporated in 1906. A crowd of 2,000-3,000 was present for the coronation. The crowd grew to an estimated 10,000 - 12,000 later in the day.

An all women's drill team, called the Security Benefit Drill Team and billed as the fastest drill team on foot, attracted a large crowd.

Woodland lost the annual baseball game against Kalama.

In the early 1940s, the Planter's Days celebration continued with a 3-day event and some additional involvement even with a world war on the horizon. More local boys and men were entering the armed services, and others along with women were headed for the shipyards in Vancouver and Portland.

In 1940 it was decided that a queen contest board would be put out to the highest bidder. The top bidder would place the box for queen votes inside the store or wherever the bidder felt would be most advantageous.

Princesses selected were Eleanore Weisen Fluh, sponsored by Lewellen Logging; Hazel Richards, sponsored by Lions Club; Anna Belle Haller, sponsored by the Finnish Society; and Mary Ellen Cheever, sponsored by the Young Men's Club.

The coronation of Eleanor Weisen Fluh Sorter marked the first time a winner had been sponsored by a business and not a service organization.

The 1940 celebration included the parade, lunch, and a water fight between Kalama and Woodland fire departments. A new addition was midget auto races at the former Cowlitz County fairgrounds at the bend of Horseshoe Lake which had become a lake the previous year due to a new highway through Woodland.

A great pig scramble took place when greased pigs were turned loose on downtown streets. An evening dance was held at the Woodland Amusement Park with an 8-piece orchestra. Admission was 75 cents with ladies free.

Planter's Days 1941 was billed as the 20th annual celebration, sponsored for the 10th year by the Woodland Fire Department.

The four princesses were Lucille Currier, sponsored by the Grange; Mary Baker, sponsored by the Lions Club; Betty Borstad, sponsored by the Young Men's and Junior Women's Club; and Edna Jullinen, sponsored by the Finnish Society.

Queen Mary Baker Fuller was crowned on Saturday. The Schmitt Amusement carnival was in town again.

Planter's Days continued on a small scale 1942-1945, with no queen contests or parades due to the lack of help and rationing of everything, including gasoline. The merchants supported the war effort instead of Planter's Days by buying war bonds and stamps.

By the time the war was over, 16 boys from the Woodland area lost their lives. The celebration was restarted in 1946.

"The Woodland Fire Department regrets to announce that the annual Planter's Days celebration will not be held this year due to war time conditions and obtaining proper equipment. The celebration will probably be discontinued throughout the duration of the war, but after the victory, the Fire Department hopes to have a bigger and better Planter's Days in the future."

This announcement was made in 1943 by the Woodland Fire Department which had managed the celebration since 1932.

The celebration was suspended until travel, eating, drinking and lighting restrictions were finally lifted.

Planter's Days resumed in 1946. But until then, Woodland lost more men in proportion to it's size than any nearby community. In all 18 Woodland men lost their lives protecting the country.

By 1946, Bud Neil had purchased the Ford auto dealership. The local theater was showing The Bells of St. Mary's, starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman. And 2,000 people visited the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens.

Princesses chosen for the event were: June Roslund, Betty Carlson, Estelle Thiel, and Darlene Tubbs. Carlson became queen on the basis of ticket sales. Betty Carlson Mills still lives in Woodland.

There was a poor turnout for this celebration due to poor weather and people still recovering from World War II. Mayor Herbert Heath resigned to move out of town and was replaced by Lee Chester.

By 1947, things in Woodland were getting back to normal. The city was growing. Princesses chosen for Planter's Day were: Phyllis Jean Nevil, Patsy Clark, Betty Wicker, and Shirley Thomas. Phyllis Jean Nevil Stuart was named queen.

The carnival took place on Goerig Street. Local loggers won a log rolling contest on Horseshoe Lake. Ted Chicks won a Bendix washer in the raffle, and bachelor Mary Forbes won a Westinghouse electric range.

The weather was perfect and some said 1947 was the best Planter's Days ever.

Popularity, not ticket sales was chosen as the method for selecting the queen in 1948, and the number of princesses was reduced from four to three.

Princesses chosen were: Gwen Hummels, Loretta Schumacker, and Lucille Turpin.

Tickets for the queen selection were sold at businesses. For each 10 tickets sold at a store, the store owner would receive one vote to cast for queen.

The process never had a chance to work because on May 31 and June 1, the worst flood in modern times submerged Woodland. The dike broke in two places and Woodland was about 80 percent under water for several days. And Planter's Days was canceled.

In 1949, Woodland was still recovering from the devastating flood of 1948. Earle Bryant became mayor for the third time.

Planter's Days celebration was started in 1922, with the completion of the dikes, but when the dikes broke in 1948, it was hard to celebrate.

A name change for the celebration was undertaken, and Betty Carlson Mills, the 1946 Planter's Days queen, won $25 for her suggestion, June Jubilee. Betty Mills was named Woodland Citizen of the Year in 1994.

Grand prize for the 1949 June Jubilee was a 1949 Chevrolet 4 door sedan, won by Gus Peppel.

Celebration princesses were: Needa Martin, Virene Brewster, Cheryl Hess, and Dorothy Gibson. Virene Brewster was chosen queen.

Miss Washington attended the 1949 celebration and the Woodland High School band played in the parade for the first time.

June Jubilee 1950... Three scholarships were awarded to high school seniors who sold the most tickets during the 1950 June Jubilee. Top sellers were: Ruby Stoliby, Joan Wills, Delbert Fredrickson, Myrtle Dunham, and Jackie Stark. Ruby Stoliby Moll won the top scholarship worth $250. She became queen. Delbert Fredrickson came in third, wondering what he would have been called had he won.

A treasured raffle prize was an RCA-Victor radio phonograph console, won by Otis Simonis. In the children's parade, little Jimmy Graham showed off his collection of earth moving equipment. Many years later, Graham became police chief and now Mayor of Woodland.

June Jubilee 1951...The June Jubilee in 1951 became a fund-raiser for a youth center, a memorial in honor of Ronnie Neil, 18, who died after a long illness.

Princesses were: Deyonne Seifert, Leota Swett, Dorothy Lange, and Lorene Merz. Leota Swett became queen.

The parade included the first farm tractor in Clark County used in 1910 which steamed down Main Street, driven by Paul Schurman. A 1951 Ford 4-door was won by Jane Hyatt of Ridgefield.

June Jubilee 1952... The name "Planter's Days" was reinstated in 1952. The dikes had been rebuilt higher and wider, inspiring the return to the original Planter's Days name.

Princesses in 1952 were: Janie Thomas, Shirley Jones, Carol Zumstein, and Diane Bridgefarmer. Shirley Jones was crowned queen by mayor Earle Bryant.

The parade expanded from the usual 30 entries to over 100. Saturday events included a street dance.

A 1952 Pontiac was purchased from Steph Motors of Woodland as a raffle prize, and was awarded to Pat Thompson of La Center.

The stage was set for the Washington Territorial Centennial Edition of Planter's Days in 1953.

The Planter's Days Celebration in 1953 recognized the Washington Territory Centennial Celebration.

Four couples were selected to be honored in a pioneer king and queen contest. They were Mr. and Mrs. J. J. Guild, Mr. and Mrs. Roy Hunter, Mr. and Mrs. Curtis Gardner, and Mr. and Mrs. Fred Stallcop. The couples were descendants of people who came to Woodland when Washington was still a territory in the mid-1800s. The Guilds won the contest. Their families still live in Woodland.

Planter's Days 1968... As a scout project in 1968, a frog jumping contest was held. What started out with six entrants then grew to 96 frogs in 1996. The event continues to draw huge crowds and is managed by the Hansen family.

A logging show was part of Planter's Days in some years, and in the late 1960s, a 2-day professional rodeo proved popular.

Planter's Days 1970 was the last year that the Woodland Fire Department managed the celebration, having conducted the affair 1932-1970. In 1971, a committee was formed to sponsor Planter's Days and, along with the Fire Department, others involved were the VFW, Grange, Lions and the JCs.

Planter's Days 1972... The golden anniversary of Planter's Days was noted in 1972. The celebration included a formal coronation and queen ball, with 15 past queens present.

Since 1982, the Planter's Days committee has been made up of area citizens and not sponsored by any one organization. Funding is primarily by ticket sales.

Planter's Days 1997... This year will be the 75th anniversary of Planter's Days. Another formal coronation and queens ball are set for Friday, June 20 in the high school auditorium. Many past queens will be present.

The 75th annual celebration of the building of the dikes is unique. The community has survived three major floods, four wars, and the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. The event marked the Washington Territory Centennial in 1953, United States Bicentennial in 1976, and the Washington State Centennial in 1989.

Since 1953, Planter's Days has had 43 queens and dozens of automobiles have been given away, along with thousands of merchandise prizes.

The celebration continues with a main parade and a kiddie parade. The Fire Department has served a million barbecue beef sandwiches.

This will be the first year (1997) that a used car will be given away, but it is a classic 1965 Mustang, valued at more than any previous car.

When Planter's Days was started in 1922, organizers knew it would last, and today it is the oldest continuing community celebration in the state. Everyone is welcome.

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