Grant's Getaways - Astoria Birthday!

Grant's Getaways - Astoria Birthday!


by Grant McOmie

Bio | Email | Follow: @KGWNews

Posted on May 19, 2011 at 1:15 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 5:02 AM

Who doesn’t like a party???

Astoria's Bi-Centennial Celebration begins this weekend

It is the oldest town site west of the Rockies!

So, let the celebration begin.

The best parties take the right people who offer planning with enthusiasm and experience.

Like Astoria residents Mac Burns and Paulette McCoy who teach listeners something new about their 200 year old hometown each week.

Their radio program, “Adventures in History,” is heard on KAST AM radio each Saturday.

The self-proclaimed cheerleaders of all things “Astoria” are on a special mission this year:

“It’s hometown pride and just a part of me so I guess I like to brag about this place,” noted McCoy, a fifth generation Astorian, who has steered the planning for the Astoria Bi-Centennial Celebration over the past four years.

Burns and McCoy want you to visit their corner of the state for good reasons:

It is the oldest US settlement west of the Rockies,” added McCoy. “That is truly a bragging right. Plus, there is also the beauty of the Columbia River meeting the Pacific Ocean – and we have wonderful restaurants, art galleries and fabulous museums.”

Burns, Director of the Clatsop County Historical Society, offered another significant and sobering bragging right: “Without this place being established in 1811 by John Jacob Astor, the truth is that Oregon, Washington and Idaho would all be a part of Canada today. That is a fact!”

The Astor party arrived in Astoria just three months ahead of a British scouting party, led by explorer David Thompson.

The party planted the US flag smack in the middle of town where a replica Fort Astoria stands today.

These day, the Fort George Brewing Company has set up shop near the fort replica and produces a namesake brew that’s caught on with a nation-wide crowd.

Just like the nearby Liberty Theatre: a fully restored city centerpiece where there is always something new to see and do: Like the Fern Hill Glass Studio where anyone can stop in to watch molten glass take form as vases, mugs – even sea creatures.

It’s all rather remarkable when you consider that not so long ago, the entire town was wiped away in a devastating blaze that lasted for days.

The Great Astoria Fire of 1922 destroyed 40 city blocks at a time when the country was already on the ropes.

Burns explained: “The town was built on pilings over the river so they would be fighting a fire in one area and the fire would be traveling underneath the docks and all of a sudden two blocks to the east, the fire would pop up – it was really hard. Businesses were wiped out so a lot of business was hurt badly and people were devastated.”

But the city fathers rebuilt the town – a sign of resilience, commitment and a true Oregon spirit.

This time they built on land, not wood, and shaped the town into what we see today: a place that draws folks from all over the world – including 19 cruise ships a year.

That is no surprise really since Astoria’s front step is the mighty Columbia River and it’s enduring influence.

“It is still a maritime town,” said Dave Pearson, Assistant Director of the Columbia River Maritime Museum. “No question about it – all the influences are still here – surrounded by water on three sides – that history hasn’t left Astoria.

Pearson added the museum is a fine starting point to enjoy the 200th birthday celebration because it provides an educational foundation and visual link with the water.

“The bar pilots, the river pilots, the fishing history, the maritime museum offers all of these things through stories that are rich with our heritage. It continues today too – we are a city of fishermen and outdoor recreation is strong here too.”

Outdoor recreation is easy to come by in this corner of the state –like razor clamming. It is so easy anyone can try with a clam gun on a low morning tide across a 12-mile long stretch of beach that you can drive across too.

“This is really one of the most beautiful places in the world,” said McCoy – brimming with pride. “It is extraordinarily beautiful and we want people to come here to enjoy our heritage, history and our diverse culture.”

Burns quickly offered:  “We area very optimistic lot in Astoria. We love this town and we feel fortunate we get to live here in paradise.”