When it comes to fun, food and fireworks on the Fourth of July weekend, Otsego County has our area covered — from Springfield in the north to Oneonta in the south. Both communities expanded their celebrations to two days this year.
Oneonta’s Fourth was festive 95 years ago, and while many enjoyed the celebration, the day took on a purpose. It was to honor the young men and women who had recently returned from World War I.
“It was definitely decided,” The Oneonta Star reported on July 1, 1919, “at a meeting of the general committee on the Fourth of July demonstration for the soldiers and sailors of the county, to hold the exercises of the afternoon at the Fair grounds, they affording ample space for the parking of cars, and the big grand stand providing seating capacity for nearly three thousand people with space in front of the roof garden, from which the addresses will be made, giving room for others who will desire to witness the presentation of the medals to the guests of honor.” The fairgrounds were once found where the Belmont Circle neighborhood is today.
The day began with the morning baseball game between Oneonta and Unadilla, played at Neahwa Park Field, known today as Damaschke Field. Oneonta was the winner, 7-5.
Soldiers, sailors and other war veterans reported to the armory on Academy Street to register, where they were presented with coupons so they could attend all the day’s festivities at no charge.
“After the ball game the guests of honor are to be fed at the various churches with a substantial meal, all to be of the same dishes,” the Star reported. “It has been found impossible to secure sufficient chickens to feed the large number expected but other appetizing meats with the usual side dishes will be provided.”