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When the Cascade Falls Open, Summer Starts in Jackson

The Cascade Falls in Jackson
Nancy Camden

The Cascade Falls in Jackson, a destination for summer entertainment, opens Memorial Day Weekend and runs nightly through Labor Day.

An old postcard of the Cascades
An old postcard of the Cascades, taken from a collection in the Ella Sharp Museum in Jackson.

In the 1920’s, it was the dream of William Sparks, a successful business man. The 500-foot-long, man-made, illuminated waterfall was built during the Great Depression.

Sparks requested that Jackson men, especially married men with families, be given preference as workers.

“While he was traveling in Spain, he had seen some illuminated waterfalls and I think that created the dream,” says Lynne Loftis, Retired Director of the Ella Sharp Museum in Jackson.

It opened in May of 1932 on Sparks’ 49th birthday. 25,000 people were said to have come to the opening. From that point until WWII, great ‘spectacles’ were staged on the hill of the Cascades, on ten stages with a chorus of about 500 singers.

The water flow, lights and music are now controlled by a person in a little room at the base of the falls with a laptop.

“We can make the falls change their lights faster than you can keep track of it now, with the computer,” says Jim Guerrero, the now retired Director of the Cascades for 35 years.

Large parts of the plumbing and mechanical workings of the falls are original equipment and in danger of failing. So, there is a drive to renovate those systems. The program begins at dusk because it needs to be dark to appreciate the colorful illumination of the fountains and water as it cascades down the large hill.

“The moonlight overhead and the stars in the sky, people get entranced by the beauty of the colored lights and the colored water,” says Guerrero. “And as they walk up and down the falls on both sides, you hear that cascading water coming down.”

The setting is romantic for lovers and fun for children who run up and down the hill with the spray of the falls getting them wet. Spectators can sit and talk while watching the show, which originated with William Sparks’ dream.

“He wanted it as a place of relaxing mediation, beauty in the middle of this five-hundred-acre park, where people could relax,” says Guerrero. “Little did he know that people need that today more than ever.”

There is a fee for attending the show in Cascade County Park. The falls is open from 8 pm to 11 pm every night.

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