The date is May 1, 1938 and it’s a good day for the 2,000 visitors descending upon Newport with the promise of a free lunch and a good time. But, it’s doomsday for the 6,000 Dungeness crabs on the menu at the coastal community’s first annual May Crab Festival.
The impetus for the celebration was twofold. First, the price of Dungeness crab had bottomed out and festival organizers were hoping the free meal would spur a craving for the crustacean cuisine. Secondly, Newport, much like the rest of the nation, was in the grips of the Great Depression and the May Crab Festival was slated to be an economic boost for Oregon’s Central Coast.
And it did the job for several years until crab became too expensive to give away. The festival starting losing money and its end was looming on the horizon.
Enter the Cold War.
Now it’s the 1950s and the country has pivoted from Depression-era woes to anti-communist fervor. President Dwight D. Eisenhower proclaims Loyalty Days as a national observance in response to the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union. Communities brimming with patriotism embrace the heroic holiday by honoring US servicemen and women with parades, memorial services, festivities and more.
Pacific Northwest coastal communities are no exception and the waning May Crab Festival is soon replaced with a red, white and blue tide of pride found in Newport’s Loyalty Days, initiated by American Legion Post #116 in 1956. The following year, Oregon Gov. Robert Holmes and Newport City Mayor Ellis Moses issue a proclamation asking all citizens to step forward and renew their allegiance to the USA.
Welcome to 2019 and the event is still going strong as the town gets ready to celebrate its 63rd Annual Newport Loyalty Days & Sea Fair Festival from Thursday, May 2, through Sunday, May 5.
“We come together to celebrate our heroes of the community,” said Desirae Bobeda, the Newport Loyalty Day & Sea Fair Festival Association chairwoman. “It just kind of binds our community together, which is nice.”
And attracts about 10,000 visitors as well – which is also nice, she adds. So, the association has been working hard to make sure there are plenty of activities for guests of all ages and interests to enjoy.
“It’s a taste of everything that Newport has to offer,” Bobeda said.
One of the highly-anticipated events is the Queen’s Coronation at 7 pm on Friday, May 3, at the Newport Performing Arts Center. Members of this year’s Senior Court are Natalie Hanna, Guadalupe Martinez, Breanna Russell and Britnie Gwynn.
The lucky young woman who will be queen receives a $1,250 educational scholarship, while the remaining princesses are awarded a $1,000 scholarship apiece. A silent auction will be held before the event and the winners can claim prizes following the coronation.
Another popular activity is the Coast Hills Running Club’s Fun Run down traffic-free Highway 101 while hundreds of spectators cheer on participants. The run/walk supports Lincoln County youth track athletes and schools with the most entries can win $500. Every parent and child entering together and finishing the race get a team silver shoe charm. All finishers go home with a victory ribbon as well.
The Fun Run starts at 11:45 am on Saturday, May 4. Same-day registration and number pick-up begins at 8 am at SamFit, located at 1111 SW 10th Street in Newport. The price for same day registration is $15 plus $8 for a shirt. Buses will transport participants to the starting line near Walmart. Awards are set for 2 pm at SamFit.
The Newport Loyalty Days & Sea Fair Festival Annual Hometown Parade is always a big hit and draws close to 100 entries. The town shuts down Highway 101 to make way for the procession that starts at noon on Saturday, May 4. There will be alternative routes for travelers needing to get through.
First Sgt. Phillip V. Jacques will grand marshal this year’s parade. Jacques grew up in Brookings and enlisted in the Army in 1990. He is a veteran of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom and several other overseas operations, earning the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. For a time, Jacques was stationed in Newport with the Army National Guard.
Other events throughout the extended weekend include the Davis Show Carnival, Reading of the Names, Blessing of the Fleet, free nine-hole rounds of golf for military members at Agate Beach Golf Course, Mr. Bill’s Traveling Trivia Show at Rogue Ales Public House, Survival Suit Races, barbeques, memorial services and more.
For more information, go to the Newport Loyalty Days & Sea Fair Festival’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/newportloyaltydays.