Howard Vroman, 68, has lived in Ferndale his whole life, as did his parents and grandparents, so Ferndale's Old Settlers Picnic has been a family tradition.
The event takes place Thursday through Sunday, July 24-27, at Pioneer Park and in downtown Ferndale.
"I know that my Grandpa Vroman did not like to miss any of the picnics," he says. "It was the only celebration around. Before the Northwest Washington Fair, before Blossom Time, and all the other local celebrations."
Vroman, a member of Old Settlers Association, says the celebration began in 1895, with the first one held at Birch Bay, hence the event name "picnic."
It was intended as a get-together for the first county settlers.
"I have been told that as it grew the whole county 'shut down' to attend," Vroman says, so cow-milking got done early.
The picnic was intended as a county celebration, and it still is, he says, even though each town in Whatcom County has its own community festival.
What makes the Old Settlers Picnic unique are the tours of the 15 log cabins at Pioneer Park, still the main attraction, as it should be, since they are a big part of Whatcom history, Vroman says.
Jon Mutchler, a Ferndale City Council member, local pastor and an Old Settlers trustee, says the association takes on the responsibility and care of the picnic and the grand parade, and, along with Ferndale Heritage Society, maintain the cabins, which were once owned by the Old Settlers but gifted to the city in 1972.
Kimberlee Cruz has been a trustee with Old Settlers for three months but has volunteered the past three years. She joined the association to share her love of old times with her kids, the same way her great-grandparents, grandparents and mother did with her.
Cruz says the cabins are in their original state from the late 1800s to early 1900s. The cabins also have period decorations for visitors to get an idea of how people lived and worked in the old days.
She adds that from the original picnic in Birch Bay, the event took shape from the Grange movement, revival meetings, church socials and county fairs to evolve into what's now a four-day festival.
Cruz says some attractions new this year include a kids' karaoke contest Friday afternoon, and ZigZag and Ragz Z Clowns on Friday and Saturday.
Other highlights include a cancer benefit with music by the Atlantics on Thursday, a kids' parade Friday, a 5K fun run/2-mile walk and the grand parade on Saturday, and "Pops in the Park" with Whatcom Symphony Orchestra on Sunday.
"Even for people not from this area, it still gives a good view of the life people lived here in Whatcom County before the 1900s," Vroman says "It is still good for all of us to get a view of our heritage and how our grandparents and great-grand parents lived, as it is impossible to put a log cabin in our backyard."
OLD SETTLERS PIONEER PICNIC
When: Thursday through Sunday, July 24-27.
Where: Pioneer Park, 2004 Cherry St., Ferndale.
Details: whatcomoldsettlers.com, 360-224-8128, and Whatcom Old Settlers on Facebook.