City & Government, Community, Creswell

Amberg: Creswell will celebrate July 4th holiday

CRESWELL – City residents and fans of classic, small-town Americana from throughout the region welcomed the news earlier this week that city leaders and community volunteers were working on a Fourth of July Celebration next month. 

City Manager Michelle Amberg revealed that plans were in the works to make sure Creswell does its best to provide safe, family-friendly fun on the holiday during a pandemic. If people were wondering whether the city would have events associated with the holiday this year, the city manager’s one-word answer was clear: “Yes!” 

To be more specific, City leaders are working with community volunteers to plan an array of activities and contests around the holiday. 

“It’s about small-town pride,” she said. “If people are wondering about whether Creswell is celebrating July 4th, the answer is yes,” Amberg said enthusiastically.

The usual events – including a pancake breakfast, parade through town, vendors at Holt Park and a fireworks extravaganza – were paid for and managed by the Creswell Chamber of Commerce. Due to the pandemic’s effects on the Chamber’s budget and Gov. Kate Brown’s orders regarding Phase 1 and Phase 2 status, Chamber president Raina Napper announced that the traditional events would not be held this year.

“As we started to see our favorite activities and events get cancelled due to COVID-19, it was heartbreaking. No camping? No baseball? No Bon Jovi? And now, no parade?,” said Creswell resident Jenny Hill, who has been bringing her family to Creswell for the parade since before they moved here in 2012. “And without the need to set out chairs on the sidewalk, what will folks talk about in the weeks before the parade?” 

The City has stepped into the vacuum.

The idea is to maximize safety while encouraging family fun throughout the neighborhoods, Amberg said. “Car cruises” have become a popular way to safely socialize at a distance, and the early planning stages involve activities where people can spend time driving in their cars and sharing community experiences.

“Last year my dad died on July 3rd and my family raced back from Montana just to make it back in time for the Fourth of July celebration, that’s how important it is to us,” said Scott Pisani, owner and chef of Pazzo’s. “I know that it’s going to be different this year but our community needs it more than ever right now. We need to feel united and together, even if it’s not the usual traditions. To just not celebrate though? That’s unacceptable.”

His two sons, Ethan, 14, and Aram, 12, have never missed a Creswell Fourth of July. “It’s our favorite holiday,” Aram said. “I can’t imagine not watching the parade.”

Kelly Coughlin, owner of the Round-Up Saloon, said it will be business as usual. “For the last 10 years I’ve barbequed hot dogs and hamburgers at The Round-Up so my traditions will continue, with a few minor changes to maintain the standards set by the state due to COVID-19.”

Other residents said they were glad the City was looking for alternatives, and they would still miss the traditional trappings and events of the July 4 holiday. 

“It’s been a big tradition in our family,” resident Lisa Apo said. “I know how important this day is to our town though so it’ll be interesting to see what new traditions are made this year.”

Hill said she is glad people, “realized that even though we can’t hold some of our favorite activities, that doesn’t mean we have to cancel the holiday. Instead of throwing in the towel, they took this chance to be innovative; to rethink events that haven’t changed much in past years.”

While still in the preliminary discussion phase, Amberg mentioned several ideas: 

n Contests for best-decorated house, cutest pet and sidewalk chalk art. Neighbors could drive around and check out how others were celebrating at home, and then cast their votes on the City’s website or Facebook page. 

n She’s hopeful the business community will get involved with gift cards and decorated storefronts.

n A Kona Ice truck will be driving through neighborhoods, handing out free snow cones.

n Discussions to continue the traditional flyover by jets are ongoing.

n Light displays are planned for Holt Park, City Hall and the library. 

“We still have to follow all of the rules, and 25 people is a pretty big gathering for one house,” Amberg said. “Let’s have a safe and sane Fourth. It’s already bad conditions for fire season.”

She noted that “even if we had the traditional fireworks, it would have been impacted by the fire conditions.” Fire conditions in the area already are a concern.

Lastly, Amberg encouraged residents with celebratory ideas to contact the City with those suggestions. 

“We always find a field to sit and watch the fireworks so it would definitely be a disappointment if that tradition were to come to an end this year,” said Susan Schweitzer, who’s lived in Creswell more than 20 years. “We’ll just have to wait and see what the city comes up with.”

“Will we miss a few traditions that need to be put on hold for 2020? Of course,” said Jenny Hill. “But this unexpected bump in the road allows us to come up with new, exciting ways to celebrate. This is the year to create new traditions to mix with the old favorites. After all, every tradition started somewhere.”

Chronicle reporter Jordan Cora Lampe contributed to this report.

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