Fireworks, fun and games and food are traditionally included in Independence Day celebrations with fireworks displays appearing as the most dominant theme.
Canton’s first documented version of a Fourth of July observance was in 1907, according to a commercially printed program in the Canton Area Historical Museum. The event was sponsored by “employees of the Champion Fibre Company.”
A list of contests with corresponding prizes is included. The winner of the “wheelbarrow race” received a “box of cigars.” A flashlight was awarded the winner of “the Tub Race.” “Two cases of soda water” went to winners of the baseball game. A “pocketknife” was the prize for the Skeet Shooting Contest. Taking honors in “The Potato Race, the Three-legged Race and the Fat Man’s Race (for those 200 pounds and over)” earned a “box of cigars.” Reflecting the culture of that era, all participants were men.
Businesses involved in the celebration included Dr. T. A. Hargrove, local dentist, whose office was “above the Post Office” and offered free examinations. Smith’s Tonsorial Parlor, located “a step from the depot,” claimed “hair cutting as their specialty.” C. T. Wells included coffins and caskets in his general store inventory and admonished that “all bills must be settled promptly.” The Canton Pressing Club charged “only $1 per month.”
A local Jamboree was reported in 1939 with sponsors including “Martin’s Drug Store, Champion Cut Rate Drugstore and Canton Drug Store.” Local ice cream establishments “Cabe’s Ice Cream, Colonial Soda Shop and The Company Store” joined the list. Jamborees continued into the 1940s.
Various sports played a big role in Fourth of July celebrations throughout the 1940s. The Sports Jamboree, as it was named, states that Canton and Waynesville together shared contests in baseball, golf, tennis and horseshoes.
Haywood County offers several Independence Day events in Waynesville, Lake Junaluska, Maggie Valley and Jonathon’s Creek, including fireworks. Canton’s July 4th + 1 celebration adds an additional day to festivities with a fireworks display and other activities on July 5.
Caroline Ponton is curator of the Canton Area Historical Museum. Edited by Edie Hutchins Burnette.