Lane County Sheriff Cliff Harrold leads his crew down Oregon Avenue — a classic Fourth of July parade scene in Creswell pre-pandemic. CHRONICLE ARCHIVES

CRESWELL – As Creswell moves farther away from the tarnishing events of this year’s Fourth of July, it also inches toward next year’s celebration, and Creswell City Council has made it clear that the last thing it wants is a repeat of 2021. 

As such, at Monday’s work session, council discussed how it might help avert the problems that surfaced five months ago: an unpermitted parade, code violations, citations, hate groups, high community tension and unwanted national media attention. Councilor Alonzo Costilla was adamant that the City needs to follow up on its proposal to host a town hall meeting, and that it must create a back-up plan to ensure the parade continues no matter what. 

“We need to talk about it. It’s not going to fix itself and it’s not going to go away,” he said. 

Council agreed to host a town hall in January 2022, with the first subject being the Fourth of July. That meeting — likely to be held on a weekend — may include a panel of City staff and council, Chamber and school district members. It would be an opportunity for open dialogue: for community members to ask questions, share concerns and make suggestions. 

City staff is looking into coordinating with those partners and working out the details of location, technical logistics, and obtaining a facilitator. Council president Kevin Prociw suggested contacting Meri Justis of the Eugene-based Insight Leadership company to facilitate the event. 

The Chamber — which traditionally organizes the parade – will discuss its potential involvement at this week’s board meeting. RuthAnn Seim, community engagement specialist for the Chamber, anticipates that the board will be open to the idea, saying that it would be a beneficial conversation for the community to have. 

Meanwhile, with a full board taking charge, plans are underway for this year’s Winter Lights event, another Chamber-organized event. Plans so far include many of the long-established elements, like a holiday market at the community center, a small parade that includes the Creswell High School band and a music performance by the Creswell Community Singers at the fire station, among other events

Councilor Costilla said that developing a Plan B for the parade is needed to act as a safety net in the event that the Chamber cannot organize a future parade. He suggested a resolution or ordinance be drafted that declares the City’s commitment to the Fourth of July, and also suggested that an ad hoc committee be formed to assume responsibility for the parade if needed.  

“The City needs to take ownership of that parade some way, somehow,” Costilla said. “By doing the resolution, and by having a Plan B or an ad hoc committee, the City still has some teeth in the parade.” 

Pandemic impacts — primarily the lack of tourism money — nearly dissolved the Creswell Chamber. It was an organization that was already on life support from lacking volunteers in recent years. At its lowest point in early 2021, the Chamber was down to only two board members. 

Some community members heeded the call for service and by April had resurrected the Chamber with a full board, with the exception of a past president. The board now includes Bobby Ladley, president; Jason Stubbs, vice president; Daniel Merrill, secretary; Brandy McPherson, treasurer; and Cassie Stoner, Sandi O’Brien and Elena Connely, members at large. 

By the time the board reassembled — just three months before its biggest event of the year – it was too late for it to plan for the Fourth of July, as the event typically takes upwards of a year to organize.

And with Covid restrictions in place at that time, it ultimately had no choice but to forgo hosting the parade this year, creating a void for the homegrown commotion to ensue. 

The City contracts with the Chamber to use its collected tourism tax money for events like the Winter Lights and the Fourth of July. Seim said that while there are no plans in motion at the moment, the Chamber does intend to coordinate the Fourth of July events in 2022. 

But what if the Chamber — for whatever reason — cannot host the parade again in the future? The Chamber cannot transfer the tourism money back to the City to use, Amberg said, and ultimately, there is no fool-proof method for ensuring the parade every year. 

There can be a back-up plan if the Chamber defaults, Amberg said, but in other circumstances – like any future Covid restrictions that may come down the chute – there is nothing the Chamber, nor the City, nor an ad hoc committee could do to avoid the mandates. Further, there is nothing the City can do to prevent another homegrown parade from bubbling up. 

The conversation will continue at the November work session.