2019 FILE PHOTO

The last “official” parade in Creswell featured everything spectators would hope for – including the lack of partisan political messaging.

The school teacher called, concerned about “the impact on our kids.”

Multiple business owners shared concerns regarding the potential near- and long-term effects on their stores.

The leader of a local nonprofit texted, worried that a planned rally could be “a threat to safety.”

On social media, there were calls for protests and boycotts. 

What could have provoked all of that?

Why, the annual Creswell Fourth of July Celebration, of course. 

Wait, what?

Arriving in February 2019, I’ve only been a part of one, so far. Our daughter drove down from Salem for the day. We all decorated our office on Oregon Ave. and watched sidewalks sprout lawn chairs while people filled in every possible space in-between. I recall standing in the middle of the street with the library on one side and La Pinata on the other. I texted lifelong friends who still lived all around the country, most in big cities, sending images of small-town Americana as it was rolling down the main drag. Classic cars carried beauty queens who were making their automaton-like waves, firefighters tossing candy to children, and a person in a Bigfoot costume (costume?). 

After the parade, Chronicle staffers hosted a BBQ and fundraiser at Emerald Valley Golf Resort, the Men from S.U.R.F. performing the classics while a few feet away classic cars were on display like gaudy jewelry sparkling on a bright day. 

The fireworks that night held special interest for me because The Chronicle had detailed the entire production in partnership with Western Fireworks, who even provided the “script” for that evening’s show. 

It was glorious.

A year later, it was in disarray. Of course, so was most of the world as we careened toward local and national elections hotter than firecrackers.

The Creswell Chamber of Commerce was effectively defunct in late spring of 2020. That’s the organization that oversees the pancake breakfast, stages the parade and pays for the fireworks show. On top of that, the world was in the grip of a deadly pandemic, and healthcare leaders and infectious disease experts warned against the types of gatherings a parade and fireworks would bring. 

In its absence, City leaders created communal events, including a July 4-themed house-decorating contest. Residents organized a “people’s parade” that, despite those who decided to use the event to amplify extreme political views and the QAnon conspiracy, provided at least some semblance of a homemade parade. The block-by-block fireworks display throughout Creswell that night also, while less than perfect or legal in some cases, was a collective release representative of exploding joy. 

The Chronicle covered all of those things, careful not to fan the flames or point fingers. Our mission is to present the news accurately, and in a “solution-oriented” manner that ultimately edifies our community. We’ve spoken to more than a dozen residents, business owners, city officials, and event organizers to bring you the clearest picture possible of where things stand now, in 2021. You can find Erin Tierney’s multi-sourced, on-the-record reporting in these pages.

It’s clear, action is afoot.  

A reconstituted Creswell Chamber of Commerce board – largely populated with newer residents – has organized a fireworks show. The plan is to stage it from the old Bald Knob mill property on Highway 99, a 5-acre plot recently purchased by a new owner. TJ’s restaurant also has new owners. One of them said he wants to host a non-partisan celebration and help coordinate a parade along the old route. 

Let’s build on those things.

The Chronicle is publishing a special section in our July 1 editions to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Creswell Fourth of July parade. It started one year after the formal Fourth of July fireworks show began. And we’d like your help. We plan to publish your memories of the July 4 holiday in Creswell – in your own words – through the past three decades. This special section will be a lifelong keepsake of memories and emotions tethered to this flag-waving birthday party. And I have a feeling that the 2022 celebration will be our best ever, riding the wave of post-pandemic exuberance and, hopefully, a better appreciation of what we had.

Yet still … 

I don’t mean to be pollyannaish, or appear to dismiss concerns that are well-founded, and no doubt heightened after the 250-car vehicular assault on townspeople this past October, days before the election, inflicted by mostly out-of-towners summoned by the most radicalized here.

The PTSD many Creswell residents feel as a result of that event – including the use of a flag pole to dangerously push and shove peaceful protesters who were outnumbered by at least twice as many – is real. The insurrection and attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 further demonstrates that the potential of a paramilitary, antigovernment rally in Creswell on July 4 must be taken seriously.

Unfortunately, so much of that righteous indignation burns like the sun, reflecting off our computer screens, and does little more than add fuel to the hatred. People hiding behind aliases, others repeating unsubstantiated claims, and still others clamoring for a boycott of local businesses.

Folks, it’s hard to get the straight news, even with people who are your neighbors. Business owners and various board members alike don’t return messages, understandably worried they might offend half of their customer or voting base.

Creswell has a chance next month to unite in celebration of America, to revel in our diversity today and pay respects to our melting-pot origins.

My hope is that we express our gratitude on this 245th birthday for the right to argue about our differences – peacefully.

Noel Nash is publisher of The Chronicle.