DANA MERRYDAY/CHRONICLE PHOTOThe refurbished Buster Keaton mural at the corner of Main Street and Highway 99 in Cottage Grove is one of the features of this week’s conference.

It has been a strange summer in Cottage Grove. Some things have seemed normal enough and refreshingly so. Others are not so nice.

The heat dome and unseasonable temperatures are making it tough for plants, animals. and humans. We caught a break last weekend as temps in the 80s, some grey skies, and even some widely spaced raindrops fell, but that relief is due to be short-lived. Triple-digit temps should be greeting this edition of The Chronicle. Who would have thought that temperatures in the 90s would be considered a relief as in, “It’s only going to be in the low 90s this week.”

With excessive heat and its drying effects the fire danger is extreme and over the ridges some fires have sprung up due to lightning. There has been smoke but nowhere near last summer’s levels. Let’s hope everyone does their best and doesn’t add to the problem by doing something stupid with sparks, cigarettes, equipment, or the like.

Last Sunday we tried to go to a swimming hole on Sharp’s Creek, but were turned away by freshly installed “Posted” signs warning folks about forest fire dangers – including while walking – placed there in light of the extraordinary fire danger.

And on top of it all is that Covid, which we thought was receding into an unpleasant memory, has flared up with the Delta variant. The COVID-19 retrovirus, never content to stay still long enough for our immune systems to gear up to fight, has been shuffling its meager supply of RNA into a more aggressive form. That is bad news all around. It’s hard to make plans when those variants keep happening; people’s lives still have to go forward. And while it isn’t too bad in Oregon and Cottage Grove yet, caution is not a bad thing.

The U.S. Air Force Band of the Golden West, which was scheduled for the Aug. 25, Concert in the Park series, has announced that it is canceling due to Covid concerns. It is not just the Cottage Grove show. The USAF is canceling or postponing all California and Oregon shows in view of the increases of Covid cases. The City is remaining in contact with the USAF Band of the Golden West in hopes of rescheduling the show in the near future.  

The City of Cottage Grove’s Friday Update for this past week shared the Lane County recommendations encouraging vaccinations and continued caution to avoid mask mandates and closures in the near future. In this release it stated:

“Approximately 80 percent of new COVID-19 cases are unvaccinated individuals. Additionally, approximately 93 percent of people in the hospital for COVID-19 are unvaccinated and 4 percent are only partially vaccinated. It is important to stress that COVID-19 vaccines significantly reduce the likelihood of contracting COVID-19, as well as significantly reduce the severity of the disease for those who do experience symptoms.”

If you haven’t taken this step there will be a free vaccination clinic in the Grove, for all individuals ages 12+ this Saturday, Aug. 14, 5-8 p.m., at Harrison Elementary School, 1000 Taylor Ave.

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And while this variant swirls about us, life does indeed go on. We are having the Damfinos, members of the International Buster Keaton Society, who will be in town for their every-five-year visit to view the sites of his silent film masterpiece, “The General.” This will be the 95th anniversary of the filming of that classic and the Damfinos are following their tradition of honoring his titanic efforts. The last time they were in town for the 90th, we were treated to a showing of “The General” in Bohemia Park with a live orchestral ensemble performing Mark Orton’s original soundtrack. You can see the film and hear that music on Saturday at the Chambers Railroad Bridge in a novel setting. Limited seating will be available to the members of the public for $5. Tickets go on sale at 8:30 p.m., and the movie goes on at 8:45 p.m.

The conference attendees will visit local landmarks such as The Cottage Grove Hotel, where Buster and crew members stayed during the filming, Kelly Field, which saw Buster and crew take on the local baseball teams to help relax and unwind after a hard day of filming, the Culp Creek site of the staged train crash (single most expensive scene in silent film history) among other places that were in and around town that also appeared in the movie, some remaining recognizable even today.

One other special event for the Keaton aficionados will be the unveiling of the now-completed restoration of Howard Tharpe’s “The General” mural at Main Street and Highway 99. Folks will gather at 11:30 a.m. to witness the dedication of the restored mural. A member of Howard’s family will add his signature to the mural, lovingly restored by artist Connie Huston, who knew and collaborated with Tharpe on a number of mural projects around town. She dealt with the Herculean prep of a difficult surface, late rains, and the heat wave in her process to bring back this community icon. Thank you Howard Tharpe, Connie Huston, and all the members of the community who helped by donating to the restoration efforts!

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The third experimental Streetery was installed on Main Street in front of Bartolotti’s Pizza. The outside seating areas are scheduled to remain in place until November, but may get a bit of an extended lease if distancing standards are reintroduced with the Covid flare-up. If you haven’t tried one out yet, this week after the heat tamps down might be a good opportunity.

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A scaled-down W.O.E. Fair is planned for the third weekend in August. This family-friendly fair has a long tradition in the community and, like many other fairs, had to take last year off. If you are interested in volunteering or exhibiting, check their website: westernoregonexpo.com or call 541-942-6150. If you haven’t had the chance to experience this delightful local celebration of down-home fun and 4-H skills, talent, music, and vendors, slip under the tracks just north of town by Horner’s and travel back in time to where the Kalapuya gathered to race horses and celebrate a good gathering season.

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If you haven’t seen or heard about the effort to help improve the local skate park you can give your input via a survey. If you have a kid, grandkid, or neighbor who likes to skateboard, ride BMX bikes, or razor scooters, contact City of Cottage Grove Public Works, [email protected] 541-942-3349. Thank you to Councilor Greg Ervin and PW Director Faye Stewart who are taking a lead in these efforts.

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The Cottage Grove Library has reopened with temporary hours this past week, Monday-Friday, 1-5 p.m. Curbside pickup and home-bound delivery will continue. To reserve books for either call 541-942-3828.

Please stay safe out there, get vaccinated if you haven’t done so yet, mask up if in questionable surroundings, be careful with fire and stay cool!

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