Celebrate 20 years of re-Jubilation

July 19, 2001 12:00 am
Miners Jubilee was originally launched in 1934 as the Baker Mining Jubilee, but lapsed after 1941 due to the war and a declining interest in mining. The event was revived by the Baker County Chamber of Commerce in 1982. This year marks the 20th celebration of the Miners Jubilee. (Baker City Herald photograph by S. John Collins).
Miners Jubilee was originally launched in 1934 as the Baker Mining Jubilee, but lapsed after 1941 due to the war and a declining interest in mining. The event was revived by the Baker County Chamber of Commerce in 1982. This year marks the 20th celebration of the Miners Jubilee. (Baker City Herald photograph by S. John Collins).

By CHRIS COLLINS

Of the Baker City Herald

As the 20th anniversary of the present-day version of the Baker County Miners Jubilee is celebrated, those involved in reviving it remember fondly how hard they worked to ensure its success that first year.

Nelson Clarke and John Kirkpatrick, who volunteered to co-chair the 1982 Jubilee, today admit they really didnt know what they were getting themselves into. The two, whod been friends since junior high and graduated from high school together, took what amounted to six months off work to devote to the planning effort.

Luckily, their business partners, who also happened to be their fathers, were supportive of their civic-minded spirit.

Clarke has remained in Baker City where he is an owner in Clarke & Clarke Insurance Agency. Kirkpatrick, who moved away in 1989, was a partner in the family business, Kirkpatrick Chevrolet, in 1982. He now owns Worldwide Abrasives at Lewiston, Idaho. He and his wife, Jeanie, and two children, live at Clarkston, Wash.

The 45-year-olds recalled the enthusiasm and dedication of the hard-working steering committee that helped bring the Jubilee back to life after a 40-year absence in the community.

The first Baker Mining Jubilee took place on July 4, 1934. The event, led by the Baker County Chamber of Commerce with Leo Adler as chamber president, continued until 1941. It was disbanded after that year because of World War II and a declining interest in mining.

Dick Haynes was a major motivator of the events revival, according to Clarke and Kirkpatrick.

Dick really had the thought to put this all together, Clarke said. I give tons and tons of credit to Dick Haynes. It was his baby, his idea; he wanted to get it going again.

Haynes points out that this year isnt really the 20th anniversary of the community celebration. He and his wife, Marge, organized their own Mining Jubilee Days at the Maxi-Mart Shopping Center in 1975 and 1976.

The celebration featured mining exhibits, demonstrations and contests as well as a free dance in the parking lot Saturday night. Prospector John, billed as a world champion gold panner, traveled to Baker City from Skagway, Alaska, to participate.

We thought it was a special event that ought to be renewed, Haynes said of his efforts to establish the modern-day Jubilee.

When the building at the Maxi-Mart Center was leased to Big V the next year, Haynes hoped that the store would keep the event going. But that didnt happen. The Jubilee lapsed again until the chamber of commerce agreed to sponsor it in 1982.

Haynes is disappointed that the celebration has drifted away from its original focus on mining.

The thing that is unique about it lots of places have rodeos and street dances is its connection with mining, he says.

In 1982, mining was making a resurgence in Baker County, which also fueled the enthusiasm for reviving the Jubilee.

Clarke and Kirkpatrick both enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about the mining history of the county and about the process of mining itself while organizing the 1982 Jubilee.

When we restarted this, mining was actively going, Kirkpatrick recalled. We were able to actually go through some mines.

Haynes introduced the men to people who helped organize the mining contests that were a focal point of the Jubilee that first year.

I had never heard about rock drilling, Kirkpatrick recalled. I had to learn a lot.

He noted that his children, ages 16 and 13, probably will never have the opportunity to visit an operating mine to help them understand the history of the country where their father was raised.

Clarke and Kirkpatrick also recalled in recent interviews that the chamber found itself in financial trouble in 1982. The success of the Jubilee appeared in jeopardy when Dwight Hopkins, the chambers executive director, resigned about a month before the event was scheduled to unfold.

He was the most incredible salesperson Ive ever met, Clarke says. He created a vision.

But as the date for the event approached, it became clear that he had done little to ensure that the vision would become reality.

Kirkpatrick recalled that the first the chamber board knew of trouble was when someone called to confirm that the carnival would be in town for the Jubilee. The caller learned that Baker City was not included on the carnivals summer schedule.

Talk about a community pulling together, he said. We had a group of steering committee people who jumped in.

That committee was responsible for the brain-storming that produced events such as the World Championship Porcupine Sprint Race.

Steeped in controversy with animal rights activists from the first year, the race drew crowds of spectators.

The 1982 Jubilee received the Animal Protection Institutes Cock and Bull Award as one of the worst ideas of the summer for its plan to race porcupines.

The animals traveled down a 32-foot trail between hay bales lined with balloons. The event first was held on Court Avenue between Main and Resort streets, then moved to the fairgrounds and finally to the football stadium to accommodate the crowds.

The 10th and final race was held in 1991 after protesters convinced the state to enforce a law prohibiting harassment of wildlife. Members of the Baker High School Class of 91, who are holding their 10th reunion during this years Miners Jubilee, hold the world record of 10.2 seconds recorded at the last race.

Capturing the animals for the race is a favorite memory of those involved, including Mike Wooters, who chaired the event that first year.

Wooters, who moved to Salem 11 years ago, said the planning committee came up with the idea as a way of attracting a large crowd.

We were looking for something a little different or unique, he recalled.

Wooters said Ron Brinton of The Record-Courier happened to comment that hed seen a porcupine on Main Street while leaving his office one day, and that sparked ideas of racing the animals.

Wooters enthusiasm for the event earned him the title of race chairman.

He said publicity increased when, tired of answering redundant questions about what was done with the animals after the race, he invited an Animal Protection Institute representative to a porcupine barbecue after the event.

Thats when we started getting articles from other states and countries, he said.

The organizers enforced the rules that allowed racers to use brooms to only guide the animals and never to strike them. And they were required to return them to the areas where they were captured, Wooters said.

Al McMillen of Baker City caught extras and rented them out to other racers as well as racing his own each year.

He remembers the first year he caught two that he named Peaches and Pineapple. He raced one and the other was raced by John Leonard. Although he never won a race, McMillen said he came closest the year he dressed as Superman.

In hindsight, Clarke said he believes the chamber should have continued the races.

I dont think we ever hurt a porcupine, he said.

The memories that are the strongest for those who helped organize the event 20 years ago, however, are of the camaraderie of working with friends for the benefit of the community.

It was an experience of a lifetime, Kirkpatrick said of his participation in organizing the 1982 Jubilee. I will always look back ... so happy I could be involved.

The fact that the event has survived for 20 years is a testimonial to the hard work that has been invested by the chamber and its members over the years, says Clark, who is helping organize judging for this years parade.

Looking back through all the chair people, I can see why its still going, he says. There was a lot of luck involved that first year, but it got more and more organized. Some good people have been involved in keeping this thing going.