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September 21, 2024  |  12PM - 8PM

HISTORY

The "original" Hop Festival, also known as the Hop Fiesta, began in early 1930's. The festival grew out of the celebrations in the migrant camps at the hop fields. These celebrations marked the end of hop harvest.

The festival happens every THIRD Saturday in September. 

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Images courtesy of the Heritage Museum

About
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The idea for the Independence Hop & Heritage Festival was conceived in the summer of 2001.

John McArdle, mayor of Independence, gathered a group of volunteers that coalesced into an official committee. Their charge was to create and present a festival reminiscent of the huge end-of-harvest parties of the old days.

At one time Independence was known as the Hop Capital of the World.

Families would come from near and far to set up camp in the hop fields and spend their summers harvesting. All family members participated, and all could earn income in the fields. Economics and social opportunity blended. Hop camps became temporary villages with a leadership structure, regular entertainment and parties, and shared work.

At the close of the harvest season downtown Independence swelled with celebrations and revelers filled the street. A reporter for one of the newspapers of the day said he could have crossed Main Street walking on people’s heads and shoulders – the streets were that packed.

After World War II the harvests dwindled along with the parties. The once popular Hop Festival, or Hop Fiesta, ended.

2001 saw the fruition of a renaissance movement in downtown Independence. Buildings had been cleaned up, and amenities such as charming street lights and friendly sidewalks enhanced Main Street. McArdle’s vision of a new Hop Festival could encourage the return of crowds and fun to downtown.

The Independence Hop & Heritage Festival Committee started its work and settled on a date: September 29, 2001. Planning got underway as the festival headed from drawing board to reality.

Then, 18 days before festival go-time the country was shaken to its core by the 9-11 attacks. A very quiet committee met on September 15 to contemplate the fate of the emergent event. Mayor McArdle attended and had a few pithy, but encouraging words: “If we cancel this festival those sons of bitches win.” The decision was made to proceed and on the morning of September 29 the 21st century version of the Hop Festival opened.

The public came. Five blocks of downtown streets were closed to traffic. There was a stage at C Street and another for karaoke on Main Street. In the opening moments a woman stepped onto that second stage, started the music, and sang “God Bless America.” People congregated in the street, looked for a flag, put hands over hearts, and were silent for some moments after the poignant presentation. Later, letters to the editor expressed gratitude for a fun activity, and for the feeling of safety that overlaid Main Street that day.

In 2002 the Independence Ghost Walk began on the Friday before the 2nd Hop Festival. The public came again.

The festival became a popular September destination, expanding to three days, and the crowds grew.

A few years back the festival was scaled down, partly because of politics, and partly because street closure (on a public highway) became problematic. In 2020 there was no celebration at all in deference to COVID. By 2021 Hop & Heritage was but a shadow of its former self.

But in 2023 the festival roared back with much of its original vigor. C Street was closed for 2 blocks and filled with vendors. There was entertainment on the stage. Food and spirits were available in abundance. And, once again, the public came.

The festival is 100% volunteer run, and meetings start months and months prior to day of the festival! The event is a community treasure, and the Independence Downtown Association is delighted to see the tradition continue. 

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