A patriotic parade returns – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News
The first in 3 years, Ashland’s Independence Day celebration featured bands, classic cars, Uncle Sam and a ‘thank you’ to local front-line health care workers
Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Patricia Norris, of Ashland, stays warm during the Ashland Fourth of July Parade Monday downtown.
Hints of rain on an overcast day kicked off Ashland’s first Independence Day parade since the pandemic.
But cool weather didn’t stop people from lining both sides of Main Street to hear and see all the event had to offer, whether it was marching bands, classic cars (new ones, too), Southern Oregon University’s mascot Rocky The Raider or the valley’s health care workers.
“They want this simple kind of fun you couldn’t have for so long,” said Susan Madley, of Ashland, referring to people who lined the parade route.
It was not lost on parade emcee Katharine Cato, vice president of sales and marketing for Ashland Chamber of Commerce, that the event had only been canceled twice in its 100-year history.
“We were heartened to see the Ashland community celebrate the Fourth of July with us,” she said. “Everyone came down, participated, had fun and enjoyed it.”
Alena Beltz, of Medford, set her folding chair down on Main Street almost two hours before the parade began.
“We’re really excited to be here for the Fourth of July,” she said, noting the increase in Jackson County COVID-19 cases didn’t deter her from coming. “I’m tired of not doing normal activities. I want to get back to normal.”
The event began at Triangle Park and proceeded down Siskiyou Boulevard and turned onto East Main Street, before finishing on Water Street.
Before a single bit of the parade hit the intersection of Main and Pioneer, the faint sounds of patriotic tunes could be heard, hinting at the arrival of the Ashland City and Ashland Middle School bands. When time permitted, people filed across both lanes of cordoned-off Main Street to get photos — or maybe they were just waiting to shoot a video of the fighter jets that flew overhead not long after.
A pack of Boy Scouts were first to appear, carrying the American and Oregon flags. Following behind them were all manner of motorists in classic cars — from Ashland City Council members to SOU’s new president, Rick Bailey. Other public officials, however, took a different approach, like Democratic Rep. Pam Marsh, who donned a Statue of Liberty costume while waving that iconic torch.
And then there were health care workers, who were not at the front of the parade, but were certainly the center of attention. The Ashland Chamber, which produced the event, anointed those professionals as the grand marshals of this year’s parade, under the theme “Ashland Cares.”
“The front-line health care workers have given it their all,” Cato said. “Ashland cares about them because they cared for us.”
In that spirit, applause was audible as employees from Asante and La Clinica walked down Main Street. A car leading that procession sported a sign reading: “Honoring all front-line health care workers — Thank you.”
One of the organizations the Chamber sought to highlight as part of the parade’s theme was Rogue Community Health, a nonprofit founded in Ashland 50 years ago. What began as a clinic run by 13 women above a candy store has mushroomed into 250 employees with multiple locations throughout Jackson County.
Rogue Community Health’s communications director, Dustin Daniel, thanked the Chamber for including its workers in this year’s parade.
“It’s very refreshing to be able to see so many people in person again after the last two years of distancing ourselves and spending a lot of time virtually,” he said. “To be able to be together as a community and celebrate this holiday, and do so on such a big landmark for Rogue Community Health — celebrating 50 years — is very special, and RCH was very glad to be a part of it.”
Ashland native Bradley Case was happy to be part of the festivities, too. He can remember camping out in the parking lot of Safeway the morning before the parade just to get a good view.
“It’s kind of silly when I think about it now. We were just young teenagers and wanted to get a prime spot for the parade,” Case said. “It’s one of the coolest events in the Rogue Valley. I love the jets when they fly over.”
Case moved away from Ashland and had not seen the parade in almost 20 years. But on July 4, he brought his wife and three children — John, Macee and Alton — to see it.
“I’m totally excited. I feel like a little kid again, bringing them down here,” Case said. “From a scale of 1 to 10, I’m like a 12 right now.”
The parade’s ending was another event’s beginning. The Lithia Park Bandshell saw scores of musical acts, kicked off by a reading of the Declaration of Independence by Shakespeare Festival regular Barry Kraft, as well as the Gettysburg Address by Bob Jackson Miner, who attended in character as Abraham Lincoln.
But the Bandshell actually saw a reduction in activity compared with years past, according to Cato. Before, there were a lot of arts and crafts vendors.
“If you take that 1-mile parade route and all of that crowd descends into Lithia Park, we just wanted to give a little bit more space and time for people,” Cato said.
Aside from that, there wasn’t as much interest on the part of vendors signing up to be at the park. Cato blamed it on places “hit hard by the pandemic.”
“Next year, we hope to bring it back,” she said.
See the Mail Tribune’s parade photo gallery at mailtribune.com/photos
Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.