Independence day

Creswell’s traditional Fourth makes a strong comeback

Photo by Bradley Cook

Photos by Bob Williams

After a two-year hiatus, Creswell’s classic Fourth of July festivities brought feel-good fun back to Oregon Avenue. Most people agreed that this day represents freedom, liberation and self-expression. And for Izabelle Hatch, the holiday is also a day of “appreciating family, appreciating that we just woke up today, we have our health. We are not as bad as some places.” Parade-goers were excited to return to a “sense of normalcy” after a controversial Fourth of July celebration the past two years. Due to pandemic conditions, the traditional event organizer – the Creswell Chamber of Commerce – was unable to organize the past two celebrations, leaving a vacuum for others to concoct an event of their own. Last year, the parade was organized without permits by a political extremist hate group, casting a negative light on the City in the national news media and causing friction in the community. The event ultimately sparked more protests, fines and a mayoral resignation. The Chamber has since made its comeback, and members and volunteers have regained control of the traditional event. “For me, this is an opportunity for us to celebrate and come together in a patriotic fashion to celebrate with our community … celebrate what makes Creswell and the United States different,” said Jason Stubbs, who is the acting Creswell Chamber board president. Stubbs said he’s grateful the parade brought the community together with respect for one another and, more importantly, the country. While Creswell and McKenzie River chapters of the Proud Boys again made its presence known at this year’s event, this time they watched the parade from the sidelines. “We can’t prevent people from showing up,” Stubbs said. “But we did take measures to ensure they didn’t have booths or participate in the parade.” Volunteers were slinging pancakes all morning, feeding hungry visitors and friends at Holt Park. Patrick Gervin has been mixing up batter for the pancake breakfast for 10 years – he’s the genius behind the drill-powered mixer used to keep up with the fast-growing line. Gervin estimates they cook up well over 500 flap-jacks. “I was ready to get back out here,” Gervin said. “It’s nice to see things getting back to normal.” Byron Williams, the man on the grill, spilled the secret to the perfect pancake: “You gotta have you gotta have a hot griddle. You gotta have a good pancake mix. You gotta wait for the bubbles. You gotta have a good seasoned grill. And you gotta have fun with it, alright?” Festival-goers also listened to country tunes and visited local booths at Holt Park. Some little ones even panned for gold with Tom Pepiot and the Bohemia Mine Owners Association. “This year feels way different than before,” Pepiot said. “We enjoy doing this so much, and we missed it so much … watching the kids eye’s light up. And you know, it’s really important to teach everybody how to enjoy our heritage and learn a little bit of the history of areas, the history of the mining district.” Lane County Sheriff Creswell deputy Luke Thomas grew up in Creswell, and this was the first year he’s worked the parade instead of watching it. “We’re all just glad to be back,” Thomas said. “I’m happy to see so many smiling faces. I don’t think I’ve ever waved this much … I must have waved to over 100 people.” Local vendors also set up on Oregon Avenue, as well. Kurt Blachnik, who has been doing custom woodwork for 20 years, says it was one of the best holidays in recent memory. “It was a very good Fourth,” he said. “The streets were clean, they didn’t have to do litter-patrol today, like they used to.” Laurie Vaale said she opens up her clothing shop and art shop every time the Grange is open. “I’ve been doing this since 2000, but just recently have I kicked it in gear because they don’t have any second-hand stores here,” Vaale said. “And I like to give back to people. “Today we had a four-day-old baby in here and I told them I wanted to bless them with a new outfit. They picked out a three-piece outfit, and I said ‘I’d like to bless you with this.’ “They’ll remember me more for that than anything else I could do. I just love kids,” Vaale said. Creswell’s “Hamburger” Patti Scott served dollar hot dogs, snow cones and snacks at the Creswell Grange. “It’s just nice to see familiar faces and to see people you haven’t seen in a long time. That’s what this day is about — family and friends coming together,” Scott said. Ron Hartman contributed to this report.