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Fairfield turns out for Flag Day centennial

Sat., June 12, 2010, 7:43 p.m.

Fairfield is a place where Americana is the bread and butter.

In this sleepy farming community, Main Street is still just that — the major strip through town where the bank, post office, community center and library sit side by side. The population sits at just less than 500.

It’s not uncommon to find people like Glenn Leitz, 79, who still lives on the farm where he was born.

“This is place where the descendants of old families stay, and there is a true sense of community,” Leitz said. “That sense of community is evaporating in this society, but there are still remnants of it.”

On Saturday those remnants were evident, as the town, about 39 miles southeast of Spokane, came alive for its annual Flag Day celebration. This marks the 100th year of the event, celebrated since 1910 with a parade and festival. A resolution adopted by the Washington State Senate this year asserts that Fairfield is the only town in the nation to do so for 100 consecutive years.

“This kind of gives us a shot in the arm every year,” Walt Schaar, a 1949 graduate of Fairfield High School, and a member of the Southeast Spokane County Historical Society, said of the annual celebration.

Schaar helped organize Saturday’s centennial event, which included a fly-over from a KC-135 tanker from Fairchild Air Force Base before the annual parade of red, white and blue, rodeo princesses on horses, antique tractors, and marching bands.

“I almost feel like I’m going back in time,” said Penni Sjodin, 58, who watched as the parade passed the corner at Main Street and Highway 27. Sjodin and her husband, Rick, moved to Latah from Alaska two years ago.

“We moved here because of the kind of closeness you get in a small town; it’s good wholesome people who want that same thing,” Penni Sjodin said. “We wouldn’t live anywhere else.”

After the parade, members of the historical society dedicated a new flagpole in front of the town museum, with a new American flag that flown over the U.S. Capitol on March 3, the day Fairfield was incorporated in 1905.

The museum, situated in the old city hall, is lively, where residents work to collect photos and old artifacts.

“The towns have been here for so many generations, it’s important to have their history kept with the town,” said Evie Heinevetter, who lives about five miles away in Waverly. “It’s important we hang on to our heritage.”

In addition to the parade and festival Saturday, a Fairfield and Liberty High School All-School Reunion was held Friday night. Fairfield High School closed in 1960, and was absorbed by Liberty. More than 400 graduates showed up to reminisce Friday night, and many attended the festival Saturday, organizers said.

Even though people move away from here, they are always loyal to this town,” said Alden “Joe” Cross, who now lives in Las Vegas. Cross graduated from Fairfield High in 1954. His father ran Associated Seed Growers factory at the end of Main Street.

“This is still home to so many people,” Cross said.

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