Tallassee doesn’t hold a Fourth of July celebration because it is an industrial town supported by large manufacturers such as GKN, Neptune and Hanil which shut down their facilities for a week to allow for employee vacations, Mayor Johnny Hammock said.
But it wasn’t always this way. The first Fourth of July celebration was held in Tallassee more than 100 years ago, quickly became the focal point of the yearly calendar and drew people from miles around.
“The annual Fourth of July picnic at Tallassee attracts nearly 6,000 people and is the biggest yearly event held in Tallassee,” E.W. Wadsworth wrote in his book “A History of Tallassee,” published in 1940.
Wadsworth described the annual event in great detail.
“The first Fourth of July picnic at Tallassee was held by the Tallassee Mills at the ballpark in 1912,” Wadsworth wrote. “W.S. Ball, an agent of the Tallassee Mills, inaugurated the event. This annual event became a traditional practice which was enjoyed by people from Tallassee and the surrounding countryside for miles around.”
Tallassee Mills furnished refreshments for the attendees and large spreads of food were presented.
“When first begun, the people of the community gathered at the ballpark and held various events and contests,” Wadsworth wrote. “Large barrels of lemonade were placed prominently for the thirsty crowd. Dinner was spread on the ground.”
Less was more in those days with entertainment.
“Swings were also provided for the children,” Wadsworth wrote. “Usually someone made a speech to which the older people listened. The small children chased the greased pig or tried to climb the greased pole to win a prize and older ones held hog-calling contests.”
There were no fireworks displays and a ballgame would top off the day of fun.
“The churches were allowed to sell drinks and sandwiches,” Wadsworth wrote.
But as Wadsworth closed his section on the annual Fourth of July picnic, he seemed to foreshadow the event’s fate.
“Today, the annual Fourth of July picnic at Tallassee has suffered a marked change,” he wrote. “Practically all amusements have been commercialized and only a few of the former contests and events continue to be held.”