In 1991, Desert Storm was raging and a feeling of patriotism filled communities throughout our nation. Acting on that spirit, Pat Berndt, then mayor of the City of Yakima, and Jim Barnhill, the publisher, at that time, of the Yakima Herald-Republic, paid a visit to a community leader they knew would act on a special request they had. “We need a real 4th of July celebration,” they told Mel Wagner. “The people of Yakima need a way to acknowledge their support for those fighting in Desert Storm, and they need a way to connect with others to strengthen our spirit of community.” Pat and Jim had come to the right man.
Mel called on his friend Bob Hall, and between them they asked a dozen other community leaders to step up, and the first 4th of July committee was formed. Over the past 20 years, the vision for the event hasn’t changed much: it needs to be free to the public and it must be a time for families and friends to come together. When asked what made that very first celebration such a huge success, Mel says the credit goes entirely to the hundreds of volunteers, many who spent the entire day making sure things went smoothly. The event still runs on the energy of a dedicated group of volunteers.
Each year's committee has had the benefit of the experience and knowledge of the past year's hard work volunteers. We'd like to acknowledge the past chairpersons for the celebration and through them the many hundreds of volunteers that they gathered together to help organize the celebration over the last 21 years.
Greg Stewart, Chair