Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day: Celebrating Dad for 100 Years

You could call Sonora Smart Dodd the "Mother of Father's Day." After all, the holiday, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, was inspired by her.

Dodd's mother died in 1898 while giving birth, leaving her father, William Jackson Smart, to raise Dodd and her five younger brothers (including the newborn baby) on a remote farm near Spokane, Wash. While attending a Mother's Day sermon in 1909, Dodd decided that fathers deserve the same recognition.

Within a year, she -- along with some help from her pastor, the Rev. Conrad Bluhm, the Spokane YMCA and the Ministerial Alliance -- did it: June 19, 1910, was designated as the first Father's Day. Throughout Spokane that day, Sunday sermons were themed around the importance of fatherhood.

By 1924, the holiday had gained some national prominence. President Calvin Coolidge that year recognized Father's Day and made it known that he wanted more states to get involved.

In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed an order proclaiming the third Sunday in June as Father's Day. He even requested that flags on all government buildings be flown that day.

In 1972, President Richard Nixon signed a proclamation permanently observing Father's Day on the third Sunday in June. And today, Father's Day is celebrated in over 50 countries around the globe on various days throughout the year.

All because of a young girl who appreciated her dad's love and wanted to see his efforts acknowledged. William Jackson Smart died in 1919, so he got to celebrate 10 Father's Days with his grateful daughter.

Throughout Spokane, events are planned to celebrate Father's Day, as they always are, but this year is special.

Pam Scott, communication manager for the Spokane Regional Convention and Visitor's Bureau, told AOL News they are taking the centennial seriously.

"Father's Day is such a part of our history, and when you reach a milestone like this, it's a good opportunity to look back, reflect and leverage the history into a truly unforgettable celebration," Scott said.

"We have many special events planned, and locals and visitors alike are encouraged to take part in this special day. We even have Sonora Smart Dodd's granddaughter coming to Spokane from Vienna, Austria."

Dads around Spokane will be toasted with Papa's Pale Ale, a specially crafted beer created by the brew master at Coeur d'Alene Brewing Company and Steam Plant Grill (available only in June this year).

Plus, many events are planned, including tours of the historic Dodd home, a patriotic salute to Father's Day, a Daddy-Daughter Tea, a symphony concert and a historic Father's Day walking tour.

Spokane is a city that proudly and enthusiastically wraps itself in its Father's Day history, providing just the right amounts of preservation and celebration. The city is also gracious when it comes to acknowledging the origin of another Father's Day landmark.

"Back in Fairmont, W.Va., they had a Father's Day in 1908, two years before ours," Scott said. "While it wasn't held regularly each year as Spokane's was, we still honor the sentiment of Grace Clayton."

Clayton had suggested to the pastor of her church that they honor fathers after the nearby 1907 Monongah mine explosion, which killed more than 360 men -- 210 of them fathers. The church complied with Clayton's wishes and, as Scott points out, the holiday failed to gain the traction it did in Spokane.

However, if you happen to be near the Central United Methodist Church in Fairmont on Sunday, know that they do a very nice Father's Day service -- right in the same place where the first ceremony was held.


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