Community, Creswell

Independence Day: Creswell parade, music headliner wows crowd

CRESWELL – The annual Fourth of July Celebration last week went off without a hitch, according to event organizers and event-goers, starting with Young Eagles taking to the sky to kick off the day-long celebration. 

Fifty-seven Young Eagles took to the sky from Creswell’s Hobby Field airport. Nine pilots volunteered their time and airplanes for 8-17 year-olds to learn about aircrafts and enjoy a 15-minute flight overlooking Lane County, courtesy of the 31st Chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA).

Pilot Alan Wieder gave the first flight of the day to 14-year-old Creswell resident Rees Miller. It was Rees’ first time in a plane, and he was all smiles as he climbed out of Weider’s two-seater. It was Wieder’s 105th Young Eagle flight.

Weider’s favorite part about the program is “that kids get the exposure to it. Even the ones who think, ‘Oh, I don’t want to do it. Mom’s forcing me.’ They all come back with a smile.” He’s had his pilot license for 35 years, and he does Young Eagle flights in Albany, Eugene, Creswell, and more.

Alejandro Delgado, 14, was in town visiting Oregon for the first time since he was a baby. He’s from El Paso, Texas, and was nervous before his flight with Pilot Rick Holman. Flying on the Fourth was Alejandro’s aunt’s idea, but he was a good sport and anxiously boarded Holman’s four-seater.

“It was a very smooth landing. It was really nice to see the places I’ve been to,” Alejandro said. “I got to ask the pilot what he does, and he was really nice.”

The Young Eagle flights were a family affair, as about 40 families came out to the airport to send their kids into the sky.

Parade and park activities 

The Willamette Valley Nomads joined the parade to bring light to the sport of hurling and publicize its team. Joshua Coom said walking in the parade was great because of the community aspect: “I grew up in Creswell, so it’s cool to be out here and tell everyone what we’re up to.” 

While some parade participants were there to bring more joy, some opted to join to bring awareness to serious topics. Christy Dungan put together a float to honor her brother Eddie Dungan, a Creswell resident who died at Two Rivers Correctional Institution on Jan. 8 due to alleged medical neglect.

“I understand they have to be incarcerated, but they also deserve the right to the bare minimum – human needs,” Christy said. “We’re just out here bringing awareness.” His two daughters, Ava and Lauren, sat in the back of the truck as it crawled through the parade. 

While some kids, like 10-year-old Lincoln Perkins, look forward to the candy thrown from parade floats, others, like 11-year-old Kolbie Durflinger, love that some floats are ready to go with water guns and water balloons, giving the crowd of sweaty people some reprieve. Kolbie’s mom Nicole said some houses even fight back with hoses or water balloons for playful back and forth.

Nicole said the best part about the Fourth of July is that the community comes together.

“You look around, and you see everybody who is very thankful to be American and just very thankful for the community we built,” Nicole said. 

Creswell High School girls soccer coach Dan Smathers said he loves “being around family and celebrating our country’s history and our freedoms that we have.” 

“Having lived in and been to a lot of different countries, it gives you a different perspective on the freedoms that we have,” Smathers said. He lived in Germany for eight years but said he has travelled all over. He’s been living in Creswell for about 13 years.

Evelyn Vargas Ponce, 15, and her brother Carlos Vargas Ponce, 16, have lived in Creswell their whole lives. Evelyn said her favorite part of the event is seeing the horses and classic cars in the parade. Carlos said his favorite part is the military flyover, as he is hoping to join the Air Force one day.

Don Brown sat with his family at Harry Holt Memorial Park, having left the parade early to get food before the lines seemingly doubled in size. This was his third Fourth of July in Creswell, and he keeps coming back because he “just loves the place.”

Don said he’s astounded by the grand turnout in Creswell and how much community appreciation there is. “We’re told every day that this doesn’t exist anymore –– and yet here it is,” Don said. “It’s refreshing.”

For newer businesses like Christy Bakes and Scotch Rocks Leather, the Fourth celebration at Harry Holt Memorial Park was a chance for exposure.

Evan Calderwood, the founder of Scotch Rocks Leather, said he has been in business for almost two years, and his handcrafted leather goods booth was busy. 

Christy Bernards of Christy Bakes has only been in business since May. This bakery focuses on accommodating dietary restrictions –– specifically ensuring all baked goods are grain-free and gluten-free. Bernards also takes special orders and weekly orders online. Her favorite dessert that she makes is the Cosmic Brownie, which she has to set aside so she doesn’t eat all of them.

Pendleton Highway and fireworks show

When it comes to being the warmup act for a big fireworks show, this wasn’t Pendleton Highway’s first rodeo. 

“We warmed up for Chubby Checker (in 2015) and The Guess Who (in 2018) at Island Park before the fireworks in Springfield,” guitarist and frontman Jimmy Smith said before the fireworks show at CHS. 

The concert almost wound up being a dud, though, because the band’s drummer Joe Ficek was a late scratch.

“Our drummer gets ahold of us (Tuesday) morning, and he said his knee is so big he had to go to the emergency room,” Smith said. “It was as big as a pumpkin. But it’s the Fourth of July so it’s the worst possible time to try to find a replacement because everybody is already booked.”

“We don’t cancel gigs. But there was no way Joe could play. We were digging deep, looking for some talent, and finally one guy said there’s a guy playing just down the road. We didn’t know him, never met him, but he’s definitely a pro, and we’re really thankful for that.”

This “new” drummer they found was Clint Wolford, who had been playing at Holt Park during the afternoon with Higher Ground. 

“We were trying to simplify things a little because we didn’t want an embarrassing situation,” Smith said. “But Clint really stepped up. He didn’t seem to miss a beat out there, so he really saved the day for us.” 

Pendleton Highway has always been a Springfield-based band, and they still are – sort of. 

Smith and his wife, Kim, have moved from Springfield to central Oregon, just south of La Pine. Bass player Rich Lee still lives in Springfield, and that’s where the band meets up to practice. 

On Tuesday, they did 7-8 originals, including “Tall Drink of Water” and “Pendleton Highway,” both of which are ticketed to be on their upcoming CD release, which is due out next spring or summer. 

While Pendleton Highway needed a drummer to step in, Creswell needed a host of volunteers to make sure its Fourth of July beat goes on. 

“All things being said, everything went well, but when you’re putting on events of this size, bringing in roughly 10,000 people to town, nothing ever goes completely according to plan,” said Jason Stubbs, Creswell Chamber president.  

Stubbs said plenty of lessons have been learned since the fires that got out of hand two years ago on the Fourth. 

“The fireworks two years ago, the citizens of our community needed to get together, and we had a lot of new people, and unfortunately, it was a real learning experience for all of us, but this year and last year have been great,” Stubbs said. 

The CHS fireworks show started just before 10 p.m. and ended at 10:43 p.m. Plenty of other neighborhood fireworks continued into the night. 

All-in-all, The Friendly City lived up to its reputation, as just about everyone who watched the festivities was well-behaved, according to Lane County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Alex Speldrich, who was on patrol that day. 

“Aside from the parade, it was a pretty uneventful day,” Speldrich said. “The event in (Holt Park) … kept us busy managing traffic. I don’t know how many people we had, but I’d say 10,000 is a fair estimate.”

This was Speldrich’s first Fourth, as he came here in February, replacing Todd May, who was reassigned to the LCSO Civil Division. Speldrich, 32, had worked in the main office since joining the force in 2014. 

One of the perks about working in Creswell is that he gets to work with his brother, Tom, 39, who started out in Creswell in 2003, then moved to Springfield before returning to Creswell. 

“I love it,” Alex said about working in Creswell. “It’s a bit slower-paced, but you get to know people and it gives you a chance to nip problems in the bud before they become big problems. Plus, it gives me a chance to zero in on problems and have a more focused approach.” 

The evening fireworks show at Creswell High School went off without a hitch, Speldrich said. 

“We didn’t receive any illegal fireworks calls – we know they happened – but there were no calls,” he said. “We probably had half-a-dozen fireworks calls for the whole Fourth of July weekend, so that’s pretty good.”

Reporters Amanda Lurey and Ron Hartman contributed to this report

Gallery: All photos by Bob Williams



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