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Boy riding rocket in Loyalty Days Parade, May 1999
"Riding the Y2K Rocket" - May 1999 Loyalty Days Parade Photo courtesy Newport News-Times

Loyalty Days, Newport Oregon

Two thousand people visited Newport on May 1, 1938, with the prospect of a "free lunch" -- 6,000 crabs were distributed free of charge to visitors to the first annual Crab Festival. The reason was twofold: the price of Dungeness crab had hit rock bottom; organizers promoted the idea of the festival believing it would create a craving for the local crustacean. Moreover, Newport, like the rest of America, was reeling from the Depression; it was thought that the Crab Festival would be an economic "shot in the arm" for Oregon's Central Coast. When World War II broke out, Newport became concerned with the possibility of an enemy invasion on the coast. Fisherman went off to war, while others turned their boats over to the military for patrolling the coast. The Crab Festival fell by the wayside. After the war, the Festival was revived in a big way, when a Crab Festival Queen was crowned and the chance to win a new car was raffled off. However, it wasn't too long before crabs became too expensive to give away, the festival lost money, and the crab festival became impractical.

About the same time that the crab festival was dying, the nation was gripped by anti-communist fervor. In 1953, the annual May Crab Festival was replaced with Loyalty Days, and Lincoln County veterans organizations held a modest parade "in support of a counter demonstration of the annual May Day mass rallies and celebrations staged by the communists." In 1958, President Eisenhower signed a Loyalty Days Proclamation. The focus of Newport Loyalty Days gradually switched to fun, not unlike the Crab Festivals of old. By 1970, parade entries totaled nearly 100, and the event featured a Dungeness crab dinner for $1.75. Demonstrations of crab pot construction and net making and repair were held. Since then, air shows, boat races, horse shows, scuba diving contests, and crab running contests have all become part of Loyalty Day events. During 1999 Loyalty Days, a crab queen was coronated; carnival rides, boat tours, yacht races, a car show and bed races were offered during the four-day event. A memorial ceremony honoring Oregon's servicemen and women who lost their lives while serving their country was held at the ocean's edge.

Although the fading away of the Cold War has diminished the need for a patriotic May Day festival, Newport's celebration of Loyalty Days is alive and well and continues to grow. Having roots in both the crab Festival and loyalty "counter demonstrations" of previous decades, it has evolved into a celebration of community pride and a Newport rite of spring.

The project is documented with a report of five pages; twelve 8 x 10 photographs; information on the Lincoln County Historical Society, who submitted the project; a newspaper article; a one-page sheet on "Loyalty Day" from 1967; and an article from the Newport Chamber of Commerce newsletter.

Originally submitted by: Darlene Hooley, Representative (5th District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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