Aaron West, The Triplicate

Crowds of hundreds lined downtown streets and filled Beachfront Park on Friday for Crescent City's annual Independence Day shindig, known up and down the coast for its patriotic parade, vendor-packed park party and the most impressive fireworks show around.

"It's a mishmash of Americana tradition," Christie Lynn Rust, former Del Norte High School band director, said as she prepared to help lead the Del Norte Community Marching Band in the parade. "It's a showcase of all different parts of our community. It brings everyone together."

And then Rust took off down H Street, followed by a marching band of a couple dozen trombones, clarinets and percussionists, all hammering out groovy tunes like "Louie Louie" and "Tijuana Taxi" while revelers young and old clawed for the candy being thrown to them.

"Can you help me?" one exasperated mother asked her husband as three children brought over handful after handful of Sour Patch Kids and chewy Lemonheads for her to hold.

"Hold it, Mom; hold my stash," one of them yelled.

"I should've brought some bags, but at least I've got pockets," she said.

People from all over came to celebrate, some for their first time and others for their first time in a long time.

"I haven't been back to Crescent Cityfor 15 years," said Michelle Strausser, who came to town this weekend from Portland to visit family. "It's been such a long time, and the town seems so much bigger. Driving in I hardly even recognized it. It's been a long time, but the parade was one thing I knew we had to be here for."

Then there were those who make it a tradition every year.

"We're always here and we love it," Jeanie Allard of Crescent City said as Mayor Rick Holley rode by in the back of a truck with Board of Supervisors Chairman David Finigan. "It's 'the' event of the year. That small-town feel is all around."

And then, after all the classic cars transporting public officials had driven by, after every siren-bearing vehicle the city had available wailed down the street, and after every mascot had thrown out all the candy they had, everyone moved to Beachfront Park to party all over again.

"That's the first plop!" the announcer of Cow Chip Bingo called out as bystanders watched eagerly to see if a cow pooped on one of the squares they had picked.

"I've never done Cow Chip Bingo before," Nico Askew of Crescent City said. "I'm just hoping for a crap. I can't gamble anymore, so this is all I've got."

"And here's number two right here!" the announcer called out after the bingo bovine pooped a second time.

"Aren't they all number two?" yelled a bystander.

Cow Chip Bingo, sponsored by the Crescent City Soroptimist Women's Organization, was just one of the events taking place during the festivities at the park, but it's probably the only one that involves amateur gamblers waiting for cattle to defecate on a numbered grid. Winners, who pay $5 for a chance to play, win either $250, $500, or $750 depending on whether they bingo on the first, second or third plop. Bingo proceeds go to scholarships for Del Norte High School students.

"It's going fast," said Marilyn Callahan, a Soroptomist who was observing the cows. "Last year we were waiting around for a while."

The cows might have been moving a bit faster than last year, but the artists over at the Pastels in the Park fundraiser, many of whom had started at 8:30 in the morning, were taking all the time they needed.

The fundraiser, which supports local summer camps, had local artists chalking up sidewalk tiles with pastels.

"It's not a competition," Lisa Fintel, a fundraiser organizer, said. "It's a gift to the public, and if it rains it's gone. It's not something that's preserved. For most of the people that I know who do this, this is their Christmas."

Some artists, like Fintel, who had chalked a fantasy-inspired tile featuring a belly dancer and a dragon, carefully planned out what they were going to draw, but others, like Meagan Anderson, were winging it.

"I'm just going to go with it," said Anderson, of Fort Dick, who had started drawing a silhouette against an eerie landscape.

And then there were the folks waiting in the 100-yard-long line for a Crescent City tradition, the doughboy - a fried cinnamon-topped monstrosity. They might agree with Anderson's "go with the flow" philosophy, but with a slight variation.

"We have 'em every year," said Deborah Depee of McKinnleyville, who was waiting in line for a doughboy. "The line's always this long but it doesn't matter. I grew up with these things. I always go with the dough."

Reach Aaron West at awest@triplicate.com.