Thursday, August 20, 2015

Bohemia Mining Days in Cottage Grove, Oregon

7/15/15 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

BMD Daze: Where to go and what to do!

Howdy, folks! Welcome to Bohemia Mining Days here in beautiful Cottage Grove, Oregon. This weekend, we’re putting out the welcome mat for everyone to come and enjoy some good, old-fashioned fun. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a born-and-bred Grover or a first time visitor—you’re going to enjoy some great history and hospitality.

Bohemia Mining Days celebrates the discovery of gold in them ‘thar hills southeast of Cottage Grove in 1863. Legend has it that two men (fleeing from Roseburg after killing an Indian) made their way into the Calapooya Mountains where they accidentally found gold while skinning a buck. And the rest, as they say…is history.

Eventually an area called Bohemia City was established as miners began the hard work of picking out a living. In the early 1900s they even had a few parades to celebrate their mining efforts. Then, in 1955, a really big 10-day celebration honored the 100-year birthday of the settlement of C.G. A parade precedent was established.

 “Radio Ray” Nelson (who loved the mining life) is credited with stirring up interest to celebrate Oregon’s Statehood Centennial in 1959. To help with financing the event, he founded the “Prospectors and Golddiggers Club” to be a booster group for mining. He soon became known as “Bohemia Ray.” Nearly 60 years later, the financial backing, traditions and enthusiasm of this event are still reflected in today’s Bohemia Mining Days.

Of course, there have been changes. The entire event has certainly grown since Chuck and I rolled into town in the late 1980s. As I recall, some activities such as carnival rides, food vendors and other concessions were located in a dusty field in what is now WalMart’s parking lot. I also remember a year when the carnival rides were set up in the old Madonna property located off Highway 99—a long walk from Main St. and Bohemia City.

And speaking of walking, the free BMD Express Train will once again be offering rides along the Main St. route from Coiner Park (Bohemia City) to the carnival rides at Bohemia Park and the Opal/All America Square. The Express will also go to Trinity Lutheran’s chicken dinner and First Presbyterian’s ice cream social. Times vary so check the printed schedule.

The festivities actually begin this evening (Wed.) at Bohemia Park Amphitheater with a free show. “The Fret Boy—Al Bennett,” will be performing classic rock. Seating is limited, so bring some folding chairs or a blanket for the grass and rock on!

Thursday afternoon from 3-9 p.m., Bohemia City opens in Coiner Park. First there is an opening ceremony. Then, the sky’s the limit: Every day there’s a “Cultural Stage” talk, musical performances, pony and camel rides, an antique engines exhibit, food and drink vendors, a beer and wine garden and on Thursday only, a miner’s dinner near the basketball court. It ends when steaks run out!

On Friday, there are some additions: the Kiddie Parade will scamper thru downtown; a family friendly melodrama will entertain at Cottage Theatre, 700 Village Dr., on Fri. and Sat. at 7 p.m. and Sun. at 2:30 p.m. Cost $7. The Oregon Aviation History Center will be open along with the Bohemia Gold Mining Museum and CG Historical Museum. A Gold Rush 5K night run or walk thru town begins at 9 p.m. at Washington & 6th St. Cost $20-$30.

The Ice Cream Social and Quilt Show is one of BMD’s oldest events The quilt show opens at noon on Friday at First Presbyterian Church, Adams & 2nd St. Then, from 4-8 p.m., homemade cakes, brownies, pies and a choice of ice cream are dished up. Proceeds benefit the FPC youth music program and Community Sharing. Cost: $1.50 kids; $3.50 adults.

Saturday, of course, is the really big show (as Ed Sullivan used to say). The eagerly awaited Grand Miner’s Parade starts off at 10 a.m. As of this writing I don’t have a float schedule so the line-up will be a surprise! But you can count on the parade beginning with a Color Guard processional followed by bands, batons, dogs, horses, old cars, music, people of all ages and floats decorated from the ridiculous to the sublime. It always ends with the wail of fire engines. 

Then, if you’re brave, you might want to check out times to compete in one of the feud contests. For many years, the Lemati Gang re-enacted an original running feud from the late 19th century. They entertained BMD audiences with their western themed shootouts, hangings and jailbreaks. This is the third year of the resurrection of “The Slabtown vs Lemati Feud.” Feud contests range from the ridiculous to the sublime on the Gazebo stage.

Saturday also features some great food. In addition to corn dogs, curly fries and cotton candy (I hope!), there’s a chuck wagon breakfast from 7—11 a.m. in Bohemia City. An always-fabulous BBQ chicken dinner plate at Trinity Lutheran Church runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. or whenever chicken runs out!

Sunday, beginning at 6 a.m., the 51st Annual Miners Breakfast on the Mountain will begin. It’s a great chance to not only get some grub but appreciate the scenery up the winding road to the Bohemia Mining District, 40 miles SE of Cottage Grove. The breakfast ends at 1 p.m. but the fun goes on in town at Bohemia City until closing at 5 p.m.

So, there you have it. It’s BMD! Time to celebrate the colorful and rich history of Cottage Grove with your family and friends. A full three days of celebration of carnival rides, history, melodramas, food, musical entertainment, cherry seed spitting and beard growing contests. There’s something for everyone. Don’t miss it!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

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