Oxford has a big party in store for sesquicentennial

President Harry Truman visited Oxford, Iowa, in 1948. (Photo from the archives of Ralph and Myrt Thompson)
President Harry Truman visited Oxford, Iowa, in 1948. (Photo from the archives of Ralph and Myrt Thompson)

OXFORD — A party more than 150 years in the making is coming to Oxford this week.

On July 4-6, the Johnson County community of about 800 residents will celebrate its sesquicentennial with a variety of events.

“We don’t want to let that go by without having some fun,” said Sherrie Curry, one of the organizers of the three-day event.

Platted in 1868, this year actually marks Oxford’s 151st birthday. While the town puts on a July 4 celebration each year, there wasn’t enough time in 2018 to put on an event worthy of a big anniversary, said Jenny Bryant, another organizer.

“We were trying to scramble and put something together in a few months,” Bryant said. “Then we said, ‘Why don’t we do it right and it’ll just be a year late?’”

The delay was a “blessing in disguise” as it allowed Oxford residents to put on a bigger and better celebration, Bryant said. This week’s celebration will feature a 5K run, parade, food trucks and booths, three dances, children’s rides, a duck race and other events. But the biggest draw of the event will likely be the July 4 steam engine rides from Oxford to Iowa City and back.

Bryant said Iowa Interstate Railroad reached out to the event organizers and said it offers steam engine rides as a fundraiser for local volunteer fire departments.

Curry said there originally were five round trips offered on the steam engines. However, the event was so popular that the five trips sold out and a sixth was added. With 350 people aboard the train per trip, organizers expect that event alone to bring more than 2,000 people to Oxford.


“We hope they stop down at the park when they’re done and eat or play,” Curry said.

In addition to the three-day celebration, the history of Oxford is being highlighted on a WordPress blog dedicated to the sesquicentennial, The blog featured old photos of the community and residents. Storefronts in Oxford also have set up displays highlighting the town’s history.

Bryant — a lifelong resident of Oxford — called her hometown a “really small, really great community.” She said some businesses have moved out of town in previous years, but businesses are starting to trickle back in. Bryant said she hopes the big celebration highlights the community.

“Hopefully, it’s an opportunity for people to realize Oxford is a great community,” Bryant said.

Details on the various events can be found by searching “Oxford sesquicentennial” on Facebook.

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