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Event makes CL focus of arts, history and nature

June 22, 2005

The Columbia Gorge Lions Club continues with 30 years of tradition with the Sternwheeler Days Festival, June 24-26, at the Cascade Locks Marine Park.

The three-day event will focus on history, art and nature, according to spokeswoman Christina McGhee.

Hours are 4 to 9 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

To celebrate the 200th year anniversary of the Lewis and Clark journey, this year’s festival will showcase living history performances and demonstrations of the Lewis and Clark era. Signs describing the adventures of Lewis and Clark as they passed through the Gorge are posted on the festival grounds. In addition, the Cascade Locks museum will have numerous displays about local history. Sternwheeler cruises will include narration on the Lewis and Clark expedition along the Columbia River.

The annual Sternwheeler Days Parade is Saturday at 11 a.m. and the day wraps up with a fireworks display at dusk.

A variety of foods will be available as well as the Salmon Bake, which will be on Saturday from 1 to 6 p.m. The Beer Garden will be open noon to closing each day of the event. Family entertainment includes music, living history performances and Church in the Park with live gospel music.

A special addition to this year’s event is the Freedom Bell group comprised of characters Jeremiah Johnson, Pocahontas, Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, Julia Dent Grant, Ulysses S. Grant, Wyatt Earp, Miss Feather, Billy the Kid, Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln. The group will perform throughout the weekend. (Details below.)

Sternwheeler Days continues its commitment to displaying art and hand crafts with booths of pottery, paintings, photography, furniture, jewelry, hand bags, clothing, specialty foods and more. Items will be on show and available for purchase.

The U.S. Forest Service will return this year with their native animal costumes, the “salmon tent” and opportunities to learn hands-on about history and wildlife. Kids will have plenty to do at the Fun Zone where the Parks and Recreation will host a climbing wall and giant slide. Goat cart rides and face painting will also be available.

Drawings will be held on the hour to win a free trip aboard the Sternwheeler “Columbia Gorge.” Regular cruises will be available all weekend. Please call 800-643-1354 or visit www.stern wheeler.com

Back on land, the Freedom Bell group brings history alive with costumes and look-alike appearances during Sternwheeler Days. The Freedom Bell was discovered along the Oregon Trail and will be a part of the Parade and on display during the festival. The Freedom Bell can be seen in the Parade on Saturday at 11 a.m. on WaNaPa Street. Daily performances are scheduled throughout the weekend.

According to legend, the Freedom Bell was found in 1941 between Baker City, Ore., and the Snake River on the Oregon Trail. The bell was found, buried in the sand, by Mr. and Mrs. Bjarne I. Berg. Just a little bit of the bell was showing above ground, so they dug for about four hours to retrieve the bell. They loaded it onto their Model A truck and brought it back to Hood River where they lived. They tried, without success, to learn the history of the bell. No one seemed to know the bell’s origins or what the bell represented. So, they put the bell upside down in their flower garden and made it a bird bath.

Years later, after Mr. and Mrs. Berg passed away, their son, Allen E. Berg, dug up the bell. He decided to call the bell “The Freedom Bell” because, as Allen describes, “Many years ago our forefathers came from the old country to this country for freedom. Let freedom ring forever!”

A wagon was designed for carrying and displaying the bell and a clapper was built from a cannon ball. The bell weighs about 2,000 pounds and the wagon was made from old horse-drawn carriage equipment.

Now the bell tours the country with Allen Berg of The Dalles, portraying Jeremiah Johnson, and his troop of Living Historians including Pocahontas, Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, Julia Dent Grant, Ulysses S. Grant, Wyatt Earp, Miss Feather, Billy the Kid, Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln.

Pocahontas is portrayed by Roberta Manley of The Dalles, who wears a traditional Choctaw Indian wedding dress made from white doe hide and glass beads. Others in the group come from Wyoming and Utah to participate in the festival. This group brings history alive with their beautiful costumes and amazing look-alike appearances.

For festival information and an event schedule, visit www.cascadelocks.net

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Sternwheeler Days Festival was founded by the Columbia Gorge Lions Club in 1975 and this year will celebrate its 30th year. The Lions Club is a non-profit organization that raises funds to help serve the community of Cascade Locks. The Lions Club helps to transport donated eyes, supplies glasses and exams for people in need and contributes to the Oregon Lions Club Sight Program. This year the Lions placed a Veterans Memorial plaque at Overlook Plaza in downtown Cascade Locks. They also provide a scholarship to a graduating senior.

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