The tradition of a community gathering during the celebration of the 4th of July is a long one.  At the start of the 20th Century, when the locals consisted of a handful of hardy pioneering families, it became a highly valued time to gather and trade and just catch up with what had been happening in their lives.  They were ranchers and farmers mostly, so they would include activities such as a rodeo, and always with much food and drink. As the story goes, they would dig a large pit in the ground and someone would donate a large critter to become the celebratory roast beast, and everyone else would provide the rest.   It is the need to be with people of like mind with a “heart” for their community that sustained this gathering throughout the years.  Stories abound such as the year local trapper Ray Morehouse provided a bear for the pit. Some of the earliest photos of La Pine show a raucous rodeo of locals, along with music and dancing.

In the 60’s the event was held sporadically, and was called the “Last Frontier Days”.  In 1976 local businessman Oren Robinson created a “Bicentennial Frontier Days” setting the tone for future celebrations.  The rodeo piece of the gatherings was held a mile or so down Highway 31 at a local ranch. The picnic and music and dancing was held in various open areas and parks around the burgeoning town.  In 1986 the project of the “Last Frontier Days 4th of July Celebration” was taken on by Bob and Carol Shotwell, and grew from there as an annual event. In 1998 a group of business folks, spearheaded by Ken & Vicki Mulenex, came together to take on the project on a more permanent basis and the non-profit organization known as the La Pine Frontier Days Association was born. Something that the entire community could become involved in and take the event into the future.

After collapsing under the major snow of the winter of 1992-1993, the “White School” was replaced by a large shell of a building.  That, and the surrounding grounds, became the “White School Park Complex” and also the yearly venue for the La Pine Frontier Days 4th of July Celebration. The number of vendors grew, a permanent stage was built by volunteers in 2000, a permanent in-ground bbq pit was built to accommodate the “Western Style Pit BBQ” that gave homage to those pit bbqs of old.  The event became a destination for those folks looking for an “Old Fashioned Hometown 4th of July”. It became known far and wide as the place to be on Independence Day.  Eventually it was bursting at the seams as it took up every inch of the surrounding grassy area and the parking lots.  It became apparent that the event needed to start looking for bigger digs!  

In 2002 the Frontier Days Association became the La Pine Frontier Days and Rodeo Association and started plans to bring back the Rodeo that was such an integral part of the 4th of July Celebration.  We acquired the use of an ideal piece of property at the corner of 3rd & Walker Streets. We proceeded to spend the next several months clearing and prepping the property, creating the rodeo arena, building bleachers, installing electric service, etc. The first rodeo was held at that site in 2003.  In 2004, the portion of the board of directors that was connected to the production of just the rodeo decided to break away from the organization, and created the La Pine Rodeo Association.  Frontier Days went back to being the La Pine Frontier Days Association.

In 2018 an opportunity was presented to purchase a 40 acre parcel of pasture land just a few blocks from their long-time home, and directly adjacent to the core area of the town (and as it happened across the street from the rodeo grounds). As it turned out this land came with a great deal of its own historical significance as it was part of the old Finley Ranch … one of those turn of the century ranches that helped build La Pine.  It was also the property that we had leased for many years as the launch area for the 4th of July Fireworks.  With a combination of usable open space, a wonderful grove of lodgepole pine, and wetlands that could become an important part of recreation for the community, it was an exciting project for the organization. 

It took only a minimum of cleaning and prepping for the organization to hold their 2019 event in the new location.  The 2020 event was not held due to the COVID pandemic (though they did present a fireworks display for the community). Many thousands of hours of volunteer labor have since gone into creating a wonderful venue in the “Frontier” style. With the obvious potential, the plans are vast. The potential and challenge fit right in to the underlying mission of the organization which is to be a major contributor to the well-being and economy of the La Pine Community.


The primary mission of the La Pine Frontier Days Association is to produce a high quality 4th of July celebration for the community and visitors.  The secondary mission is for the organization to actively participate in activities that benefit the community.  

  • We have opened our facility for other events that have brought recognition and boosted the economy for the entire community such as the Cycle Oregon Classic Bicycle Tour. 
  • We are happy to be the new “permanent” home for the Gilchrist Forest Products Annual Company Picnic … they had outgrown all other venues in the immediate community. 
  • We have been utilized as a location for a fire camp to support firefighting efforts in the area. 
  • For 22 years we have hosted the hugely popular Annual Crab Feed. This is a major fundraiser for the organization, but more than that, it has become a tradition for the community, and is attended by over 800 crab fans, and from all parts of the Pacific Northwest.
  • Since the year 2000 our organization has produced the traditional La Pine Christmas Bazaar, also helping to host the Christmas Light Parade in cooperation with the La Pine Chamber of Commerce since 1998.
  • On top of the standard Midway festivities for the annual event, we are the organizers for the 4th of July Parade and the 4th of July Fireworks Display.
  • We actively invite local youth organizations to help with the event, making substantial cash donations to their fundraising efforts.
  • We offer fundraising opportunities to other non-profit organizations in the community such as handling the parking for the event.  This has resulted in organizations making thousands of dollars for their own fundraising. 
  • In the absence of a catering business in our community, the organization has taken on providing food and beverage catering for other non-profit events in the community. This has become a fun and lucrative means of fundraising, as well as helping provide a much needed service to others.
  • We recently partnered with YellowKnife Wireless Company to grant them an easement for a service pole in order for them to be able to serve more customers in our area.  They are a major provider of internet services for La Pine and this will benefit the core area of La Pine greatly.


The La Pine Frontier Days Association would like to utilize the acquisition of this incredible resource in a thoughtful and long serving manner.  In the short term, the 15+ acres that are buildable will house the event midway, a permanent stage and entertainment area, a permanent kid’s fish pond area (one of our most popular events) plus event parking.  

A priority is to build an adequate storage area for all the many parts that support the 4th of July event.  We also own tables and chairs, and many tent canopies, that we offer to other non-profits to use for their fundraising efforts at no cost to them.

We also envision a designated area for rv parking for events, and even to accommodate needed rv parking for other events in the community not necessarily held at our events facility.  Basically an RV Park for approximately 50 sites.

The long-term the vision is for a large indoor events facility that would house smaller meeting type facilities, but also contain an open area for large events (something that is severely lacking in our community). It would contain the organization admin office, a commercial kitchen and indoor/outdoor serving area connected to the meeting rooms, and utility/janitorial rooms.  This would be a signature structure in the “La Pine style”, something the community will be proud to offer to outside events.  A true economic driver.

We plan to develop a recreational area in the designated wetlands. This would include a walking path for use by the community with native plants etc. as an educational piece.  The development of a pond that would create a lovely green space for the community, but could also serve as a “dip” pond for fire-fighting when needed. This could be developed into a preservation greenspace virtually in the middle of the city. 

To sum up … we are very aware of the fact we have become the stewards of an exceptional piece of property.  We will create a Master Plan that takes in the many aspects of utilizing a complex property that includes uplands and wetlands. We will keep the needs of the community always in mind as we plan development. We wish to create a legacy that the community of La Pine can continue to grow and enjoy far into the future.