Ashland 4th of July highlights – Part 1

Ashland City Band, 2008 4th of July parade

Ashland 4th of July highlights – Part 1

Independence Day in Ashland, Oregon

Independence Day (4th of July) is my favorite day of the year to be in Ashland. It is coming up in a few days, so I decided to share some of my photos taken through the years. I hope the photos will trigger fun memories for those of you who have attended multiple parades.

El Tapatio restaurant has beautiful dancers in the parade, in addition to horses, cars and more (2014)

For those who haven’t, this can be an introduction to the quirkiness, fun, community spirit and patriotism of Ashland’s 4th of July. Or, as one of my San Francisco Bay Area friends put it, while shaking his head and rolling his eyes as one “strange” parade entry after another came by: “Only in Ashland.”

The Ashland Chamber of Commerce and the citizens of Ashland go all out from early morning until late at night to make this day special. Fortunately, my wife Kathy loves Ashland’s 4th of July as much as I do. We are able to walk to the parade from our home, which makes the day a bit simpler than needing to drive. But the Chamber has parking lots and shuttle buses to simplify life for drivers as much as possible, since a huge crowd always attends the parade.

July 4, 2017 parade – Peter and Kathy

Pre-Parade Activity

Many businesses and community groups in the parade toss candy to the kids along the sidewalk. This family provided very clear instructions! They put their pre-parade time to good use.

Some kids use chalk for pre-parade preparation

The day always starts with a 2-mile fun run and a more serious 10K run. This year the runs will begin at 7:45 am in front of the Ashland library.

The Flyover and Start of Parade

When it’s time for the big parade to start, the crowds wait in anticipation for a jet flyover. Here are photos of three flyovers, including 2013 when it was a biplane flyover rather than jets. Not as fast or as loud! But still fun. One friend told me the jets might not make it this year for the start of the parade, but I don’t know if that is true or not.

2012 parade – Jet flyover

2017 parade – Two jets flyover

2013 parade – Biplane flyover

Ashland police lead the parade (2010)

The parade begins at Triangle Park and ends just past the Plaza on Water Street. Ashland motorcycle officers traditionally lead, followed by a Color Guard and then the Ashland City Band.

Color Guard approaching (2017)

Color Guard (2017)

Ashland Chamber of Commerce sponsors the huge parade and all-day celebration of our Independence

Ashland City Band (2014)

Ashland City Band close-up (2008)The parade Grand Marshal is usually a “famous” Ashland citizen. Last year all veterans and active military were honored as the Grand Marshall. This year two women who have each volunteered for the Ashland Chamber for more than 20 years will be the Grand Marshals.

2017 parade Grand Marshal – Veterans & Active Service men & women of the Armed Forces

Famous, and not so Famous, Politicians

Because the Ashland parade attracts so many people, Oregon’s United States Senators frequently come all the way to Ashland to be in the parade. It’s a bit surprising that both Senator Wyden and Senator Merkley have chosen to walk the parade route rather than riding in a fancy car. Not-so-famous politicians include local Mayors and City Councilors.

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden has been at the Ashland parade many times (2012)

U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley has also attended the Ashland parade

Every year, there is a delegation from Guanajuato, Ashland’s sister city in Mexico. The Guanajuato Queen does ride in a fancy car. She and the other delegates from Guanajuato will say a few words during the afternoon celebration at the Lithia Park bandshell.

The Guanajuato Queen from Ashland’s sister city Guanajuato, Mexico attends each year (2008)

Eclectic Community Groups in the Parade

Now we find out why people who are used to “regular” parades, like my friend from the S.F. Bay Area, get “thrown for a loop” at the Ashland parade. The community groups who parade in Ashland are an eclectic bunch. As evidence, I present the bagpipers and the hula dancers. That’s why I love this parade so much!

One of my favorite entries is the Bagpipers (2007)

Hula dancers in the parade (2010)

Hyla dancers close-up (2008)

It’s not just our community groups that come up with eclectic parade entries. So do our religious and spiritual groups. From Jewish, to Fundamentalist Christian, to Easter Orthodox Christian, to “Only Kindness Matters,” be prepared to be surprised.

Temple Emek Shalom klezmer band (2007)

Jesus in the parade (2007)

Archangel Gabriel Orthodox Church (2017)

Spiritual rather than religious (2016)

The American Band College

The American Band College is a summertime Master’s degree program that takes place at Southern Oregon University each year. We citizens of Ashland get to benefit when this talented group of musicians plays for us, both in the parade and also the evening of July 4th. They have enough band members to fill up three flat-bed trucks during the parade, so it’s a full sound…complete with truck air-horn accompaniment! They perform a concert at 8 pm in the evening at Ashland High School football stadium. It is extra-special because they continue to play at 10 pm throughout the fireworks display, and those who attend the concert have “the best seats in town” to see the fireworks. In Part 2 of this post, I will tell you other places in town where I have gone to watch the fireworks.

American Band College (2017)

American Band College players (2008)

Peace Corps Volunteers, Belly Dancers and Readers

Here are more eclectic community parade entries, from Peace Corps to belly dancers to fans of the library. Ashland is home to many readers, many bookstores and a very active library.

Returned Peace Corps volunteers (2009)

Circus Tribal Belly Dancers (2010)

Friends of the Library

Friends of the Library (2013)

I will end Part 1 with an iconic American eagle, courtesy of Wildlife Images, an organization in Grants Pass founded in 1981 to care for sick, injured and orphaned wildlife.

Wildlife Images Bald eagle (2007)

In Part 2, we will meet more animals, community groups, dancers and gymnasts. In addition, I will share a few photos from the afternoon activity that takes place at the Lithia Park bandshell.

This is where real patriotism takes place. When was the last time you read or heard the entire Declaration of Independence? If it has been a long time, I recommend that you hear it live in Lithia Park, so you can remember what a radical idea the United States of America was when it was founded.

Historical 4th of July parade photos: See my article with Ashland 4th of July parade photos from 100 years ago!


  • Judith Marks
    Posted at 13:13h, 03 July Reply

    My favorite Fourth of July Ashamd memory is from the late 70s or early 80s. It was a float sponsored by the local spa company and was a hot tub on a flatbed truck with bathers enjoying their favorite beverages while the float moved along the parade route. I don’t have a picture unfortunately but it was very memorable and the perfect way to enjoy the parade.

  • Gregg Torrey
    Posted at 14:28h, 14 December Reply

    Do you have a picture of the infamous girl on the bicycle?

    • Peter Finkle
      Posted at 13:15h, 17 December Reply

      I don’t have any photos of her, but I plan to keep this site G-rated, so I will stick to clothed people. An online search shows that she wanted to be in the parade topless at least once, and she was told by the Chamber of Commerce that being topless in the parade would not meet their family-friendly parade guidelines.

  • Jane Chandler
    Posted at 12:09h, 02 July Reply

    American Band College is my favorite entry! And I’m a fan of the bi-planes, not so much of the jets (but I think I’m in the minority there).

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