On July 20-22, Baker City held its 30th anniversary of Miner’s Jubilee, a 3-day celebration of the town’s gold mining heritage that goes back to the 1800’s. Since then, panning or mining for gold in Baker County has become a way of life.
According to the Baker County Chamber of Commerce, Baker City literally comes to life every year during Miner’s Jubilee. It attracts hundreds, if not thousands, of local residents and visitors from all over the Western region of the United States.
Some of the main attractions during this year’s Miner’s Jubilee included:
*Thatcher’s Ace Hardware’s Rolling Showroom Truck Event, featuring the largest selection of Leopold, Remington, Otis, and Springfield guns and rifles for sale in Eastern Oregon.
*The Baker County Public Library’s annual summer book sale.
*Historic Baker City’s annual sidewalk sale along Main Street in downtown Baker City.
*A quilt show and sale at the Baker County events center.
*Bronc & Bull riding at the Baker County Fairgrounds.
*Dance in the Grass - Live music at Geiser-Pollman Park.
*Tribal belly dancers in Geiser-Pollman Park.
*Miner’s Jubilee Parade on Main Street in downtown Baker City.
*Historic Baker City Rubber Duck Race in the Powder River behind the Baker County Public Library.
*Carnival rides and games for kids and adults at the Baker County Fairgrounds.
*Blacksmith demonstrations in the front yard of the Baker Heritage Museum.
*A free family fun area for kids and parents of all ages.
* Over 30 merchant and food vendors in Geiser-Pollman Park, including local artists and small businesses.
One of the major sponsors of Miners Jubilee every year is the Eastern Oregon Mining Association (EOMA). The EOMA is an organization that helps promote safe and responsible gold mining practices in Eastern Oregon. They also sponsor the annual Oregon State Gold Panning Championship for kids and adults, and the Oregon State Hand Steeling Championship.
According to the EOMA, they are the only organization in the state of Oregon (and perhaps one of the few left in the United States) that sponsors a hand steeling championship. Hand steeling is an event where men take turns using a 5-pound sledgehammer to pound a steel rod chisel into a large boulder for full 5-minutes without resting.
Whoever pounds the deepest hole into the boulder at the end of 5-minutes, without tiring their arm, is the winner. This year’s winner successfully pounded a 2-inch deep hole into solid rock and walked away with bragging rights and a small cash prize.
In the late 1800’s, gold miners would use hand steeling to pound holes into a large boulder so they could either split it apart or shove sticks of dynamite down inside it. The dynamite was used to blow-up the boulder and pan for any gold nuggets that were underneath it.
Unfortunately, some miners would accidentally shove too many sticks of unstable dynamite down inside a boulder and completely obliterate their prospecting area after detonating the explosives.
Wells Fargo was the only bank in Baker City that had a booth set up at Geiser-Pollman Park. In addition, the Wells Fargo Corporation had an original Wells Fargo stagecoach that participated in the Miner’s Jubilee parade on July 21. The stagecoach and its horses were driven to Baker City in a semi-truck from Klamath Falls, Oregon.
Also participating with a booth in Geiser-Pollman Park was the Oregon Army National Guard. The National Guard was there to answer the public’s questions about what they offer for men and women interested in enlisting.
Unfortunately, the National Guard accidentally placed their booth at a vacant spot in the park that was possibly reserved for other merchants. They also had two motor vehicles parked next to their booth that were not allowed on the grass. An official representative of the Baker County Chamber of Commerce was seen talking to a soldier at the booth, apparently unhappy about the situation.
In the end, the National Guard was allowed to keep their booth at the park until the end of the day. A woman dressed in a bright yellow duck costume was also seen sitting next to a soldier at the National Guard booth. The woman was an official representative and promoter of the Historic Baker City Rubber Duck Race.
If things weren't strange enough already for the National Guard, a retired US Marine Corps veteran stopped by their booth to verbally express his opinion about war and soldiering. The National Guard soldier who listened to the veteran just patiently nodded his head and did not say very much.
Between the veteran, and the woman dressed in the duck costume, the National Guard had a challenging afternoon. It is unknown if the National Guard successfully recruited anyone (or even a few ducks) during Miner’s Jubilee.
One of the biggest attractions for young kids and adults at Geiser-Pollman Park this year was something called Bubble Fun. Kids and adults paid $5.00 to have them sealed inside a large plastic bag that was inflated with air and turned into a huge plastic ball. They were then rolled up a short ramp and plopped into a large inflated swimming pool that was filled with water.
Each participant spent 10-15 minutes bouncing around wildly on the surface of the water. Several of the participants tried to move their plastic ball forward or backwards, like a hamster using its feet to move inside a plastic ball on a living room floor. No matter which direction they tried to go, the participants had a lot of fun and attracted a huge crowd of admirers throughout the day.
Throughout the first day of Miner’s Jubilee, the weather was a little windy and overcast, which did not seem to bother the vendors in Geiser-Pollman Park or the visitors who casually strolled through the area. By the second day, the weather was hot and sunny with blue skies. This seemed to attract more visitors to the park and most likely increased local revenue for the vendors.
On July 22, over 60 people watched as a hundred or more small rubber ducks floated half-a-mile down the Powder River past the public library. Each duck in the water had a special number painted on it and a sponsor who paid $2.00 to buy a winning duck.
At the end of the race, several ducks were drawn from the water to select the winners. Numerous prizes were awarded, including free white water rafting, free yearlong memberships with several non-profit agencies in Baker City, free pizza for a year at a local pizzeria, and free accommodations at a local hotel.
Soon after the completion of the duck race, Miners Jubilee came to a quite end as the crowds quickly disappeared from Geiser-Pollman Park. Filled with laughter, excitement, good food, excellent art, and a few unexpected surprises, the 30th anniversary of Miner’s Jubilee was a memorable occasion that will be talked about for a long time to come.