Gunnison Fourth of July to get ‘back to traditions’

By Suzanne Dean and Elizabeth Smith

The Frankie Valli Tribute Band, which performs music of the 1960s group the Four Seasons, will present a concert, “Oh What a Night,” on Friday at 8:30 at the Gunnison City Park. The group has a regular show at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas. Group members, from left, are Rob Hyatt, George Solomon, Paul Holmquist and James Bullard.

Gunnison Valley residents will come together for an auction and raffle to help fix up local ball parks, a concert, fireworks, a parade, food and games during the Fourth of July celebration Friday night and Saturday. 

Gunnison City held a celebration last year, but activities were dialed back because of COVID-19. This year, “it’s back to the same kind of traditions we’ve always had,” Mayor Lori Nay says. 

On Friday, activities run from 5 to about 11 p.m. at the city park (Main Street and 300 North). Food trucks will pull into the park about 5. Residents are invited to bring blankets and lawn chairs, purchase food or bring their own, and “enjoy dinner with their neighbors,” Nay says. 

At 6 p.m. Sean Nielson of Centerfield and his team of riders will put on their FMX (for freestyle motocross) show on 300 North, the street north of the park. The show always features leaps and spins, with the motorcycles, somehow, always landing with wheels on the ground. 

The Gunnison Fourth of July has traditionally included an auction benefitting a community project. This year, there will be both an auction and a raffle. A committee of 20 people has worked on the fundraiser. 

The focus will be the effort to improve three ballparks—the main field near Gunnison Valley High School (which the city shares with the high school), the field at the Centerfield City Park, and a diamond at the park on Main Street next to the Centerfield Ward meetinghouse. 

Partners in the effort include Gunnison City, Centerfield City, the South Sanpete School District and the Gunnison Valley Recreation District. 

The partners have raised $310,000 through Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), Nay says. But another $200,000 is needed to bring the parks up to the standard the partners envision, including lights in the main park. 

No one expects to raise that much from the auction and raffle. But committee members foresee the events making a major contribution. 

The auction and raffle will be from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the park. Auctioneers will be Dan Dalley of Centerfield, Bruce King and Tyler Blackburn of Axtell, and Wade Anderson of Sterling. Dozens of items have been donated, including a golf bag, guns, a high-end pressure washer and a children’s swing set. 

Several valuable items will be awarded based on drawings of raffle tickets. They include a Christensen Arms rifle (caliber of winner’s choice), donated by Christensen Arms; a Henry American Farmer Tribute Lever Action rifle (donated by Mike Wanner Construction); a StacyC children’s motor bike (donated by GIC); and a 16-foot, dual-axle utility trailer (a $4,000 value), donated by Freedom Ford.

Tickets outlets include Lazy D Pawn, State Bank of Southern Utah, GIC, Freedom Ford, Gunnison City, Valley Furniture, and Ace Hardware. 

When you buy a ticket, you can designate the item you’re interested in. Raffle tickets for the Christensen Arms rifle and utility trailer are $20 apiece or six for $100. Tickets for the motorbike and lever-action rifle are $10 or six for $50.

The number of tickets for Christensen Arms rifle and utility trailer will be capped at 500, meaning if you buy a ticket, and if all tickets are sold, you have one chance in 500. Tickets for the motorbike will be capped at 300. Ticket sales for the lever-action rifle will not be capped. 

At 8:30 p.m. at the park, the Frankie Valli Tribute Band will present a concert, “Oh What a Night,”  which is expected to draw on the group’s ongoing show at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas. 

The group is committed to preserving the music and style of the 1960s group, the Four Seasons, including hits such as “Let’s hang on,” “Sherry,” “Big girls don’t cry,” “Walk like a man,” and “Can’t take my eyes off of you.”

“People who have seen them in Las Vegas say they put on an amazing show,” Nay says. 

Following the concert at 10 p.m., there will be a fireworks show. 

“Our fireworks are the best. Hands down!,” Nay says. “Our fire department with Chief Jed Hansen, Zach Jensen, our fireworks specialist Brian Sorensen and the rest of our 21-member team of firemen put on a spectacular display.  

“They send off their rockets on the hill above the park in close proximity to the concert crowd, and they cascade over the audience and above our 75-foot tall American flag situated in the park.”

On Saturday, activities begin with a flag ceremony at 6:30 a.m. at the park, followed from 7-8:30 a.m. by a ham, pancake and egg breakfast served by the American Legion. The suggested donation is $5 per person or $20 per family.

Floats, fire trucks, decorated ATVs, etc. will start lining up for the parade on 300 South west of Main Street about 8 am. Parade participants are asked to register in advance at the Gunnison City Hall. But if you don’t make it to city hall, you can register the day of the parade with volunteers standing near the post office.

The parade will head north on Main Street at 9 a.m., terminating at the city park. This year, the city has named two healthcare providers who died of COVID-19 as posthumous grand marshals. The honors will go to Dr. Dwight Inouye, a family physician for more than 40 years, and Dr. Ernie Larson, a family dentist for 48 years. Their widows, Jeannie Inouye and Joanie Larson, will be the co-grand marshals and will ride in the parade.

Beginning at 10 a.m., there will be carnival games, such as ring toss and face painting, at the park, directed by the Gunnison Jaycees. 

According to Kay Pickett of the Jaycees, a new Bingo game is planned this year. It will start at 10:30 a.m. at a big white tent in the park. An entry fee of $5 will include a Bingo card and a chilled bottle of water. Prizes will be awarded to the winners of each game.

The highlight of lunch, directed by the Gunnison Lions Club, will be the traditional taco salads. The Lions expect to sell as many as 500 for $5 apiece. Hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken sandwiches and chips will also be available. 

 “Usually, things are pretty well cleaned up by 2 p.m. because everybody gets hot and goes home,” Nay says. 

However, the Gunnison Valley Swimming Pool will be open for free swimming from noon to 4 p.m., with an opportunity to dive for money at 1 p.m. 

Volunteers in charge simply toss $200-$300 worth of coins, typically quarters, into the pool, and kids dive toward them. “It looks like a school of fish” swimming toward the money, Nay says. 

There will be one other event this year.  A patriotic fireside will held on Sunday, July 4 at 5 p.m. at the Gunnison Stake Center. Speakers will be Shawn and Brady Crane, a father and son who served in Iraq, and Marcia Rosenvall, whose parents came to the America from Brazil.