Q: Where does the name “Barge In Fest” come from?
Formerly the Capital Street Dock Concert, the festival grew to multiple venues this year, it’s fourth, and the new name reflects that growth with the help of many community partners and volunteers.
But there’s more to it than that.
L-C Valley longtimers might recall the Barge Inn, a 1970s floating bar south of the Interstate Bridge on the Snake River. The Lewiston Levee Trail Parkway connecting the festival’s two main stages goes past the spot.
Next, you may have noticed the elephant logo for this year’s festival. That would be Mary, the circus elephant memorialized with a sign in downtown Lewiston.
On Aug. 9, 1928, the Sells-Floto Circus came to Lewiston with 508 horses, 334 other wild and domestic animals and four herds of performing elephants. It was 101 degrees that day and trainers took the elephants to drink from the river near Snake River Avenue. The heat and excitable crowds are often blamed for what happened next, according to stories from the Lewiston Tribune archives.
Five elephants, Babe, Tillie, Freida, Moe and Mary, broke away and ran down Main Street to 10th Street where they split up. Several ran up Miller Grade where they damaged two homes before trainers lured them back with armfuls of bread.
Meanwhile, Mary, a smaller elephant, stopped on the lawn of Whitman School, which then stood at the corner of 10th and Main Streets, before charging back through downtown where reports say she used her head and trunk to attack a parked sedan with two women and children inside. A telephone pole prevented the car from flipping over. She broke plate-glass windows at the Breier Building and other businesses and wrecked signs at the Liberty Theater before entering the L. Elam garage where three women, Lillian McSorley, Lydia Sloan and Maude Pritchard, had sought refuge. The women scrambled to an elevated landing where they watched as the elephant lurched around the room below. Police officers worked to keep back crowds that gathered around the building while Mayor E. G. Braddock entered through another door and shot the elephant behind the ear with a .30-caliber rifle. The story made headlines across the nation. Where the garage stood is now the Woods Insurance parking lot where a sign about the incident hangs today.
According to local legend, the elephant was only looking for another cool drink of water.
Recalling these colorful stories, the Barge In Fest aims to add a new chapter to the valley’s spirited history. Please consider barging in.