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In the News

Monday, July 05, 2004

Freedom parades the streets and lights the sky

The Daily Astorian

Family, friends and visitors celebrate the Fourth North Coast style. The sky above the Columbia River lit up with bursts of color, explosions echoed off the hills and the crowd “oohed” and “ahhed” as Astoria celebrated the Fourth of July Sunday with a half-hour long fireworks display.

“It was the best ever, even better than last year,” enthused nine-year old Kara Howard, visiting from Vancouver, Wash. She was staying up late on a day filled with fireworks – she had helped set off Piccolo Petes and sparklers earlier that day.

“It was pretty good, especially all five finales,” said Oregon State University student Kirsten Thoreson, who was driving through the area with friends.

Roy Kirkham, coordinator of the Seaside Museum 19th Annual Parade makes last minutes decisions before parade begins.
KIM ERSKINE — The Daily Astorian
Parade Coordinator Roy Kirkham makes last minutes decisions before parade begins.

The cluster of whirling rockets and sky-filling sparkles that many thought was the end of the show was in fact followed by even more explosions.

Astoria’s pyrotechnics were lit from a barge behind the Columbia River Maritime Museum, which hosted booths selling hot dogs and popcorn. Cotton candy was a popular option, with a line at least 25 people deep.

Earlier in the day, Seaside celebrated the nation’s 228th birthday by harkening back to yesteryear, in the form the Seaside Old-fashioned Fourth of July parade and social.

“Go slow and have lots of candy to throw,” was the parade strategy of Lynn Simon. She and her husband, Paul, belong to the Tualatin Valley PT Cruiser Club, which joined forces with the North Coast chapter and entered more than two dozen cars in the parade. Each was decked out with patriotic streamers, flowers or, in one case, cows.

Lengthy planning
The parade started coming together eight months ago, when organizer Roy Kirkham started mailing out postcards to past participants and gathering e-mails to put together a plan for this year’s event.

“ It’s come one, come all,” said Kirkham, who added that he hasn’t turned anyone away. About 40 groups marched this year, from city officials to cheerleaders of all ages to candy-tossing families who just wanted to participate.

Two weeks before the big day, Kirkham starts tweaking a marching order.

It’s a task that needs all of his Type-A personality skills, said Kirkham, who has been organizing these parades for 11 years. A few minutes before the start time, his cell phone was still ringing with people calling about last-minute changes.

But the parade left the Seaside Museum without a hitch, and Kirkham was thrilled that the 12th Street bridge was ready for all the foot traffic and the parade could stay on its planned route.

After a bit of confusion as to their place in line, the Hayshakers square dance club marched with a caller and a stereo on a wagon. That way, they can stop and dance at the urging of the crowd, said the club’s soon-to-be president Kathy Worthington of Warrenton, though they try to make sure that they don’t hold up the parade.

Nine-year-old Andrew Gooch of Astoria was ready for his role as part of the Leo Club contingent, with fistfuls of candy wrapped up in his shirt and his feet on the pedals of a surrey. His favorite part of the Fourth, though, would come later with the fireworks displays.

“ I just love the whole small-town thing,” said Seaside resident Neil Branson, who has watched the parade since the late 1980s. “I like seeing the little kids in the parade, and seeing them get their time in the limelight.”

Going to this parade, he said, was becoming something of a family tradition.

Some had suggestions for improvements, though. Carol Danish, of Seaside and Portland, said that although she enjoys the events, she misses the stronger honor guard presence that led the parade a few years ago.

“Now it seems to be for the kids getting candy, rather than the town getting together to celebrate the independence of the United States of America,” she said.

Booming business
For stores along the parade route, the crowds bring good business.

“It’s been a hectic day, but we have a lot of fun,” said Jessie Hurner, whose parents own Harrison’s Bakery on Broadway. There was a pre-parade rush for coffee and last-minute snacks, she said, and the bakery usually sees a jump in business after the parade ends.

Hannah and Lucas Rice of Portland were visiting their grandmother, who has a house in Seaside. They had no need of post-parade bakery treats. By the time the last floats drove by, each had collected a significant mound of sweets.

“Oh, it’s great,” Hannah, age 9, exclaimed. “They’ve got a lot of different varieties of stuff and they throw candy. I love the fancy cars.”

Her 7-year-old brother, on the other hand, was more excited about the parade’s aural qualities.

“I like all the noise,” he shouted as the fire trucks that brought up the rear of the parade sounded their horns. “I usually make it,” he admitted. Later, the family was planning to visit the baby seals at the Seaside Aquarium then head for the beach for more noise at the fireworks display.

The Drinnon cousins had gathered in Seaside from Bremerton, Wash., and Portland, but had different ideas of what was best. Jacob liked the PT Cruisers, while Kristin and Benjamin liked the candy. Megan liked the cheerleaders, and shyly said she wouldn’t mind joining them someday. The family has been gathering for the parade for the last seven years, making some of the children experts.

“Last year’s was longer, but they didn’t have as much candy,” said Jacob.

Once the parade was over, they wandered over to the Seaside Museum for the old-fashioned social, where Kristin declared it was her grandmother’s job to win the cake walk.

They weren’t the only one with that idea; the cake walk appeared to be one of the more popular events.

While most people left the game empty handed, Chris Huth of Portland had a strategy that won him a cake – he used his psychic powers.

“I looked at No. 19, and I said ‘that’s gotta be the one,’” joked Huth while waiting in line for another round.

His friend, Hillary Mefferd, was no stranger to the Seaside festivities either; she roller-bladed in the parade while carrying a flag when she was 10.

“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else on the Fourth of July,” she said.

Content © 2004 The Daily Asorian