Families, friends have good old time in Old Town Auburn

Greased pole climb, watermelon-eating contest, gunny sack races among activities
By: Amber Marra, Journal Staff Writer
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Upon walking into the Old Town Auburn July 4 celebration, children could be seen racing each other in gunny sacks, slurping snow cones and climbing a very slippery pole to a cash prize.
The line to climb this year?s Crisco-covered grease pole snaked through half of Wednesday?s festivities. Climbers got a boost up from the bottom of the pole, just to get them started, but from there they were on there own.
Occasionally, a rag to wipe off some of the grease was tossed up to participants who climbed within a few feet of the top, which was adorned with an American flag covered with money.
This year?s winner didn?t need the rag.
Christopher Ranlett, 9, of Auburn, shimmied shirtless up the greased pole on his first try this year. He tried twice last year, but wasn?t able to make it to the top.
?I just did it to have fun,? he said.
Christopher?s mom, Lauaughn Ranlett, said her son got blisters on his hands from trying so hard last year.
?He?s a swimmer. He?s a really strong kid,? she said.
Christopher?s cash prize totaled in $230, most of which he said he would like to save.
Another climber who came close but ended up slowly sliding back down the pole before she could reach the flag was Claire Burdette, 8, who was in Old Town Auburn with her mom, Bridgett Hodkin, three siblings and four friends.
Hodkin, of Auburn, said the greased pole climb is something Claire practices for every year by climbing trees. The Old Town Auburn July 4 Celebration is not to be missed not only because it?s fun, but also because it?s free to attend, she added.
?It?s completely oriented toward kids and it doesn?t cost a fortune. I have four kids, so anytime something like this comes up, we go for it,? Hodkin said.
Past the line for the greased pole, a line of kids hopping in gunny sacks stumbled toward the finish line. Emma Anzilotti, 12, of Auburn, who won her age group in the gunny sack race, said she has been coming to the celebration and competing since she was a toddler.
?You have to put your head into it, too,? she said.
Off to the, side away from the be-bopping gunny sack contest, others were enjoying pancakes, eggs and sausage at the breakfast benefiting Auburn Hook and Ladder and the Fire Department. Nearby, children played with balloon animals.
At one point, a patriotic piñata was cracked repeatedly with a bat until it crashed to the ground and a horde of kids descended upon the sweets that were inside.
Kids then lined up on the curb to compete in the watermelon-eating contest. Participants of all sizes joined the contest, but the watermelon slices did not differ in size by much. Most pieces were at least as big as the contestant?s head.
Gavin Oyer, 14, of Auburn, chowed down on his watermelon slice the fastest, with plenty of pink, sticky juice and seeds flying everywhere.
?I?m fine. It doesn?t hurt or anything,? Gavin said.
The games continued until midday, when a few more greased pole climbers were able to reach the top of the pole, but without the cash prize. Tossed water balloons provided some heat relief.
?It?s good to see the people you know and have some good old Fourth of July fun,? Gavin said.
Later in the day, festivities moved to the Gold Country Fair Grounds for the Auburn Family Fourth celebration.
The crowd was filled with people sporting their red, white and blue, but it was a dog that stole the show.
Beau, a 3-year-old golden retriever, was decked out in blue and light red, almost pink, spots. His owner, Fred Forster, of Auburn, was there watching his three granddaughters participate in the Little Miss Firecracker pageant.
?I tell people he eats pink ice cream, but that?s not true,? Forster said. ?He has three little girls that love him all in the show today.?
Girls in red, white and blue sparkles and ribbons bounced around the Little Miss Firecracker pageant, which was taken by Kiah Clinton, 9, of Garden Valley.
People flocked to the fairgrounds for the remainder of the evening for live music, patriotic sing-along, bingo, and of course, the parade and fireworks.
Those weren?t the only reasons some enjoyed their time on July 4.
?It?s our time to celebrate our independence and the need to remember where it came from. We need to be united behind this country remaining free,? said Diana Knapp, of Colfax.
Contact Amber Marra at Follow her on Twitter @Amber_AJNews.