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As It Was: Bleachers Collapse at Josephine County Fairgrounds

As the last of the Fourth of July fireworks sputtered out above the Josephine County Fairgrounds racetrack arena in 1926, spectators leaving the bleachers did not notice until too late the sound of creaking, splintering wood.  While people waited patiently in line or helped the elderly and children down the steps, the bleachers swayed slightly, followed by a loud crack as they collapsed.

Newspaper reports said men, women, and children were hurled into a tangled mass, the injured crying out in the darkness.  Those who could began pulling people from the wreckage, uniting children with frantic mothers.  No one was killed.  The most seriously injured, Mrs. T.C. Booth, was rushed to the hospital with a crushed ankle.  She complained later that she had to wait for hours before being treated at the Grants Pass Hospital.  Dr. C.L. Ogle said amputation had been considered in her case.

An investigation determined that the weight of departing spectators on one end of the bleachers caused an imbalance, pulling the rest of the structure down.  Fairground officials said the structure would be rebuilt and reinforced to support larger crowds.

Source: "Grandstand Collapses at Grants Pass." Central Point American, 8 July 1926, p. 1. Historic Oregon Newspapers, oregonnews.uoregon.edu/lccn/sn96088432/1926-07-08/ed-1/seq-1/#date1=01%2F01%2F1846&city=&date2=12%2F31%2F2019&searchType=advanced&language=&sequence=0&lccn=sn96088432&index=14&words=cows&proxd. Accessed 23 Oct. 2019.

Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.