Ashland City Band: Meet the Conductors (Part 1)

Raoul Maddox: 71 years with the Ashland City Band!
Don Bieghler: 56 years with the Ashland City Band.
Ed Wight: ‘only’ 37 years with the Ashland City Band.

The Ashland City Band will play Thursday evenings at 7:00 pm on July 22, 29 and August 5, 12, 19 in 2021. Bring your chair or blanket and join them at the Lithia Park Bandshell.

164 years

Have you ever wondered about the people behind the 4th of July concert and the summertime Thursday evening concerts in Lithia Park? Today you will meet three musicians who between them have 164 years of experience in the Ashland City Band. Yes, you read that correctly — 164 years of experience either playing in or conducting the Ashland City Band!

Roots to 1876

Ashland City Band, 1916
The Ashland Concert Band (as the City Band was then called) was photographed in 1916 on the elevated bandstand in Lithia Park. (photo from the Southern Oregon Historical Society)

The Ashland City Band is truly an Ashland institution. Its roots go back to 1876, and funding for the band was even written into the Ashland City Charter by our citizens in 1938. It is one of only two city bands in the state of Oregon that give a full slate of weekly concerts each summer.

Meet the conductors

On July 7, 2019, I sat around a dining room table with them. I felt honored. I learned a lot. I want to share what I learned with you. Let me introduce you to the musicians who joined me around the dining room table at Raoul Maddox’s home. 

Raoul Maddox 
Ashland City Band
Raoul Maddox played trombone for the Ashland City Band for 50 years, and also conducted the band for another 21 years. (photo by Greg Badger, 2015)

First was Raoul Maddox, with the Ashland City Band for 71 years, from 1947 to 2018! Of those 71 years, he was the band conductor for 21 years, from 1977 to 1997. Maddox joined the band as a trombone player at age 14, while attending Medford High School. Sadly, Maddox passed away in September 2020. In case you are interested, his first name is pronounced ‘rail,’ as in ‘railroad.’

Don Bieghler
Ashland City Band conductor, 2015
Conductor Don Bieghler of the Ashland City Band. (photo by Greg Badger, 2015)

 The second was Don Bieghler, now the longest serving conductor in the history of Ashland City Band.  If you attend band concerts, you hear his informative introductions to each piece of music. He has been conductor for 22 years, from 1998 until now (2021), so he just passed Maddox’s record. However, he has been with the band in total for ‘only’ 56 years. Bieghler joined the band in 1963 as a clarinet player, and then transitioned to conductor in 1998 when he took over from Maddox. Wight described Bieghler as “truly beloved,” one reason why band members are so loyal, returning to play year in and year out.

Ed Wight
Ashland City Band
Ed Wight is a clarinet player in the Ashland City Band, and his father conducted the band. (photo by Greg Badger, 2015)

 The third was Ed Wight, not a conductor…but the son of a conductor. Wight tried to join the band in 1965, when he auditioned with his clarinet as a 14-year-old. He was disappointed to be turned down, but he came back at age 15, auditioned again, and was accepted into the band. You might call Wight a band “princeling,” because his father Dave Wight conducted the band for nine years, from 1968 to 1976. Since Ed lived outside of Ashland for a number of years, he has now played in the band for 37 years. He has also served as Band Librarian for 28 of those years.

Creative conducting

 Ed told me a funny anecdote about his father’s creativity. A few minutes before he was to conduct a concert, his father Dave discovered he’d left his conductor’s baton at home.  There was no time to get it, so Dave broke a tiny branch off a tree and used it for the concert.

Three special conductors

Bieghler, Maddox and Wight described three 20th century conductors who stand out for their transformative influence on the band.

Ward Croft, conductor from the 1920s to 1941, established the summer tradition of Thursday nights in Lithia Park (which we still enjoy). Earlier city bands contained almost exclusively brass instruments. Croft expanded the band to include a full complement of woodwind players (flutes, oboes, clarinets, saxophones and bassoons). It was now a full concert band. As an aside, Croft even featured the “Little Symphony” orchestra for some Thursday concerts in the park during the early 1930s. This Little Symphony was a precursor to today’s full Rogue Valley Symphony.

Glenn Matthews, conductor in 1947 and from 1951 to 1954, gave the band its modern title – Ashland City Band. It had previously been called the Ashland Municipal Band for many years. You might be surprised to know that for decades the National Anthem was played at the end of each concert. Matthews began our current tradition of opening each concert with the Star Spangled Banner. He also standardized the ‘extra concert’ during the July 4th week. You may have noticed that if the 4th of July is not on a Thursday, the City Band plays two concerts that week. This maintains the tradition of summer Thursday evening concerts started by Matthews.  Back in the 1920s, 30s and 40s, the band usually played only one concert that week – on July 4th.

Bieghler and Wight also praised Raoul Maddox, who was sitting at the table with us. While conducting from 1977 to 1997, Maddox expanded the band from about 55 players to 75-80 players. More important than quantity was the boost in performance quality during Maddox’s tenure. Ed told me “the band is not only bigger, it’s better – as it now draws consistently on Rogue Valley Symphony wind players, SOU Faculty members and local band teachers who want to play during the summer.” 

Ashland City Band, 2015
This photo shows the entire Ashland City Band in 2015. It was taken at the bandstand in Lithia Park. (photo by Greg Badger, 2015)

“…the audience spontaneously stood as one – and that brought tears to my eyes.”

Ed Wight

Uplifting moment

 Ed Wight described a moment in the band’s history that deeply moved him. “While we get a partial standing ovation at the end of every concert, we almost never get one during the concert itself.  I only remember one such occasion. In 2012 we performed a medley of Irving Berlin tunes.  It was a glorious arrangement, and closed with one of his two most famous songs – ‘God Bless America.’  It was such a beautiful, heartfelt version, the audience spontaneously stood as one – and that brought tears to my eyes.”

This is one small example of how the Ashland City Band uplifts us and brings us together as a community. We are fortunate to have this dedicated group of musicians in our midst, summer after summer, year after year. 

Ashland City Band, 2015
This photo shows the beautiful Lithia Park setting for Ashland City Band concerts. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2015)


I will close with this quote from an audience member that really struck me: “The Ashland City Band is magical. It reminds me of the movie The Music Man, which I loved. Not that the band is the same as the Music Man, but there is a similar flavor and feeling of an old-time place. It’s the flavor of a place where people in the community come together to sit in the park on the lawn, eat ice cream and listen to music.”

More to come 

There are many more City Band stories to tell. I will describe the band’s history and share other funny and meaningful band stories in Parts 2, 3 and 4 of this series about the Ashland City Band. 


Author in-person interview with Raoul Maddox, Don Bieghler and Ed Wight, July 7, 2019. Thanks to Ed Wight and Don Bieghler for proofing the article and adding more of their memories in the process.

Quirky Sights in Ashland: Part 1

I hope this photo essay will lift your spirits. See how many you can recognize!
Photo Essay of Funny, Strange, Artistic and Historic Sights & Sites in Ashland.

Now that’s a cool house number
Yes, there really are unicorns in Ashland (on the 4th of July, anyway)

As I walk the streets of Ashland, I am stopped in my tracks again and again by a surprising sight I have never noticed before. This post trades the written word for the visual image. My hope is that these photos will lift your spirits.

Halloween 2009 Ashland – a REAL wiener dog
While we are looking at Halloween quirkiness, we can’t forget the monster spiders.
Here’s an artistic and unusual entry arch, designed by Wendy Eppinger and sculpted by Eric Cislo in 2006. For close-ups of the arch, see below.

Wendy Eppinger’s entry arch at 190 Walker Avenue has an interesting story. She came up with the idea for the dramatic entry to her property, and then started collecting the unusual inset pieces. She found the center skull on Craigslist. The two cat skeletons came via eBay. Eppinger brought the two roosters back home from a trip to Mexico. Finally, the blue circles are from blue Sake bottles, thanks to Kobe Japanese restaurant.

Here is the center of the arch.
Detail number 2 of the arch.
Detail number 3 of the arch.
Now for something completely different. I spotted this critter riding on a car in a motel parking lot.
On the car next to the galactic dinosaur critter was a Southwest airlines critter.
This odd sight is part of the fun of walking Ashland’s alleys.
Here is a happier alley creature.
This fella must be related to the tree-fella in photo above.
I couldn’t resist this clever, loving sign on the admin table at the Growers & Crafters Market.
This is a different kind of sign. It is 101 year old graffiti left by firemen who staffed the 1908 fire station.
I bet many people will recognize the location of this quote from a 17th century Japanese poet.
The location of this one will be more challenging. The quote is much more ancient than the 17th century. If you look closely just above “Say Friend and Enter,” you may be able to read the Elvish that was written on the gates of Moria. This one is for all Tolkien and Lord of the Rings fans.
Since we are now entering Springtime and more hours in the garden (if we have one), this scene should help us move on through our day with a lighter heart.

If you enjoy “quirky,” you might enjoy my article about “The Mystery of the Peerless Hotel Marbles.”

From Sacred Church to Horror Film Location to Lovely Home: The story of 100 6th Street

Ashland’s first Catholic Church, 1889 to 1959
Family Life Bible Church, 1963 to 2014
Horror film location, 2014
Now a fully renovated, lovely residence

Here are stories from the life of one building in Ashland’s Railroad District, with glimpses into some human lives that have intersected that building.

Ashland’s First Catholic Church

The booming gold-mining town of Jacksonville was home to the first Catholic Church in Southern Oregon, dedicated in 1858. At that time, no religious group had yet built a church in Ashland, where the population was fewer than 300 people.

Catholic Church at 6th and C Streets, built 1889, photo likely taken between 1889 and 1900.
(photo courtesy of Conaway and Ross)

By 1889, there were five church buildings in Ashland. That’s the year the Catholic Church became the sixth, located in the Railroad District at the corner of 6th and C Streets. According to the Ashland Tidings of August 23, 1889, “There will be services in the new Catholic Church in Ashland next Sunday at 10 a.m., Rev. Father Noel officiating.” The church opened with a membership of about 97 men, women and children.

The original name of the church was Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, which changed about 1915 to its current name, Our Lady of the Mountain.

Because the Catholic priest in Jacksonville had to serve all of Southern Oregon, masses at the new Ashland church were few and far between – only seven in the first full year of the church building. Ashland Catholics finally got their own priest in 1899, ten years after the church was built. 

The congregation grew through the decades and a new, larger Catholic Church was built on Hillview Drive in 1959. The historic steeple bell and Stations of the Cross from the 6th Street church building moved there along with the congregation. 

Catholic Church after slats were added to the steeple, photo likely taken between 1912 and 1915.
(“This image is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University Hannon Library.”) 

Pentecostal Church

The 6th Street church building got new life in 1963, when the Family Life Bible Church purchased it. Virginia Carol Hudson told me she moved to 6th Street 27 years ago, when the church building across the street from her housed the Family Life Bible Church. Though the congregation was very small, she enjoyed hearing, while sitting in her yard, their rousing Pentecostal singing each time a church revival meeting was held. 

The Pentecostal church moved out in early 2014. After being filled with worshipers for 120 years, the sad little church building now sat empty.

Horror Movie Location

Then for two days during August 2014, it was suddenly filled with people filming suspenseful, bloody scenes for a horror/thriller independent movie! 

That’s a very different kind of energy from a century filled with songs of praise, the joys of new beginnings and the tears of losing loved ones. How did the old church become a film location? 

Director and producer Brad Douglas needed a church scene for his movie Besetment. He couldn’t find the right location in Bend or in the tiny central Oregon town of Mitchell, the two towns where he was filming. Virginia Carol Hudson, the Wigmaster for the film, told him “There’s an empty church across the street from my house. That is your location, right there.” Across the street from her house turned out to be the empty church at 100 6th Street in Ashland.

Actress Marlyn Mason

Marlyn Mason (on the right) with director Brad Douglas (center).
(photo from Besetment website)

I interviewed Marlyn Mason, one of the lead actors in the film. Here is how her acting was praised in a review of Besetment at the website “I first want to bow down to Marlyn Mason, who plays Milly, because she is so incredibly captivating and terrifying – everything you need in a horror movie performance.  This woman was incredible, and I was terrified and amazed by her in the same breath.”

Born in 1940, Mason became a professional actor as a teenager. The website IMDB lists 113 television and movie acting credits in her long career! One highlight was her opportunity to act – and sing – with Elvis Presley in his second to last film, The Trouble with Girls. 

Marlyn with Elvis in “The Trouble with Girls
(photo courtesy of Marlyn Mason)

I asked Marlyn why she moved from Los Angeles to the Rogue Valley. She replied that when she was in her early 50s, first her agent died and then her car died. Other agents she spoke with told her variations of the same story: “We don’t have work for an older actress.” 

“Dead agent, dead career”

Depressed, she thought to herself: “dead agent, dead career.” Then she had a slightly more uplifting pep talk with herself. “If I’m going to be poor, I want to be poor where it’s beautiful.” As it turned out, a lifelong friend she had known since elementary school lived in Medford, and offered Marlyn a place to rent if she was interested. 

She moved to Medford and found the beauty she was seeking, but she did not find a “dead career.” Quite the contrary. She is finding new career highlights. She recently won the Best Actress award at the Breckenridge Film Festival for her role in the feature-length movie Senior Love Triangle. And the day after I spoke with her, she was flying to New York to attend the Syracuse International Film Festival. 

Mason has felt blessed to find talented Southern Oregon directors to work with, such as Ray Nomoto Robison. She acted in his short film noir called An Affair Remains, which showed at the 2019 Ashland Independent Film Festival, and she plans to make a follow-up with him.

The Wigmaster

Now back to the empty church at 100 6th Street – and movie “blood.” I also had the pleasure of interviewing Virginia Carol Hudson. She was Wigmaster and hair stylist for the Besetment thriller, which was filmed at the empty church across the street from her house. Hudson has had quite a career. For 18 years she worked as a principal wig maker at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Now she divides her time between smaller theaters (she will work two shows during the Cabaret Theater’s 2020 season) and private clients of her Wigs by Design business.

According to Hudson, filming of Besetment left its mark in the house. A horror movie requires lots of (fake) blood to be spattered, right? So the floor got its share, which the moviemakers left when they left. Remember this when I describe the renovation process next.

A Change of Owners

100 6th Street as it is now, in 2019.
(photo by Peter Finkle)

Now back to the house at 100 6th Street. If you walk or drive by the corner of 6th and C Streets now, you will see a beautiful residence – that looks like a church! Greg Conaway and Cory Ross have tastefully transformed the small church building and grounds. 

The couple’s renovation won a well-deserved 2016 Historic Preservation Award given by the Ashland Historic Commission. Here’s how it happened.

In autumn of 2013, Ross was riding her bicycle on 6th Street and saw the old church for sale. The building stands out partly because the original church was designed with elements of the Gothic Revival style, as can be seen in the windows lining both sides of the house. She thought to herself, “Someone needs to save those windows!” 

She and Conaway called realtor Patie Millen, toured the inside of the church, were intrigued, and started discussing the potential. By December, it was theirs.

Front of building before Conaway and Ross’ renovation (2014).
(photo courtesy of Conway and Ross)

Alice’s Restaurant?

Ross and Conaway already lived in a house they liked, so they invited friends and neighbors to an ice cream social at the church to brainstorm ideas for what to do with it. People proposed a dance studio, a music venue, a yoga studio, and more. Of the suggestions Ross told me, this one is my favorite: Open a food place called “Alice’s Restaurant” at the church. After all, Arlo Guthrie wrote his famous 1967 18-minute story-song after staying overnight at his friend and restaurateur Alice’s home, which had formerly been a church. 

This song is called “Alice’s Restaurant.”
It’s about Alice, and the 
restaurant, but “Alice’s Restaurant” is not the name of the restaurant,
that’s just the name of the song.
That’s why I call the song “Alice’s Restaurant.”
(Excerpt from lyrics by Arlo Guthrie)

Front of building after renovation (2019).
(photo by Peter Finkle)

Renovation and Seismic Retrofit

In the end, Ross and Conaway decided to renovate the 125-year-old building and live in it themselves. They hired James Stiritz, owner of Dragonfly Construction, and the team at On Point Construction, with help from many others. The first challenge was to stabilize the structure. The seismic retrofit started with pouring a new steel-reinforced concrete foundation for the church. Then they stabilized the bowing walls that support the soaring ceiling. The solution was to tie them together with one-inch-thick steel rods. The old walls were also anchored to the foundation and the roof. The final effect is solid but subtle. 

Conaway and Ross chose to keep the church interior, with its spaciousness and high ceiling, intact for their main living space – an open living room, dining room and kitchen. A 16′ by 16′ addition was built at the rear of the church building for the master bedroom. The Ashland Historic Commission wrote that “This new addition blends seamlessly with the original volume in design, detail and quality as if C.W. Ayres [who built the original 1889 church] had been on site overseeing each step of the construction, saw and hammer in hand.”

Interior when Conaway and Ross bought the building, filled with church furniture.
(photo from 2013 or 2014, courtesy of Conaway and Ross)
Interior in 2019 after renovation. Note the beautiful wood floor and the steel rod across the width of the house between the two light bulbs.
(photo by Peter Finkle)

The Historic Commission added that “Ben Trieger [actually Jay Treiger] rebuilt and restored all the original windows, making them functional, including the huge and beautiful arch head windows that provide such a significant and classic architectural feature.”

Remember the floor? When the church’s pink carpet had been removed, all were happy to find a wood floor underneath, made of fir. During the renovation, refinishing parts of the fir floor proved to be a challenge, as there were spots that appeared to be blood stains soaked into the wood. Now that we know the history of the building, we know the origin of those “blood” stains. (In case you forgot from the section above, think horror movie, then think fake blood spattering all over the floor.) Despite the challenges, the fir floor was beautifully refinished.

The Steeple, the Bats and the Bell

As he described renovating the house and 1889 steeple, Conaway told me, “It wasn’t a project, it was an adventure.” Why? Because he found bats in the belfry, ivy vines up to ¾” thick inside the walls, 1880s glass brandy bottles next to cobalt blue Bromo Seltzer bottles in the crawl space, hidden windows behind the choir loft, and even an old wood-burning stove under the floor.

Greg Conaway renovating the steeple, c2015.
(photo courtesy of Conaway and Ross)

The original church had an open steeple, which Conaway and Ross painstakingly restored in 2015. Most likely some time between 1912 and 1915, the church added slats to the open steeple to keep rain out of the bell tower, but the slats made the space a perfect home for bats. When Conaway went up to start removing the steeple slats, three bats just three feet away from him slept through his hammering.

Through the decades, they left lots of bat guano there. Conaway removed 30 heavy bags of bat guano (perhaps 700 pounds in all) from the steeple! The bats have now resettled in the renovated steeple, but in a much smaller space above the new bell. They eat lots of insects, including mosquitos, so they are handy to have in the neighborhood.

As part of their dedication to a true historic renovation, Conaway and Ross found an old bell for the steeple. The bell was made in the 1870s and used to ring at a church in Illinois.

Steeple and bell as it is now (2019), renovated similar to its original 1889 architecture.
(photo by Peter Finkle)

With a high, heavy bell, the rope was so hard to pull that Ross applied her sailing skills. She and Conaway set up a series of pulleys to make it a little easier to pull the rope and ring the bell. You might hear it ringing through the neighborhood from time to time. Neighborhood kids are invited over to ring the bell on their birthdays – one ring for each year they have lived. But over the age of 20, people only get one ring for each decade!

Building Community

Building community is important to both Cory Ross and Greg Conaway. In terms of “animal community,” their garden has become an official Pollinator Garden. In terms of “human community,” in addition to the delights of neighborhood bell ringing, they hold occasional house concerts in their historic home (which has excellent acoustics). The lovingly renovated church-to-home is beautiful both outside and inside, a historic treasure for our town.

Ashland 4th of July highlights – Part 2

Ashland 4th of July Parade – Recent Highlights Part 2.

Part 1 of our 4th of July parade recent highlights ended with a Bald Eagle.  We will start Part 2 with another dramatic Bald Eagle from Wildlife Images, which has been saving injured and orphaned animals since 1981.

Bald Eagle from Wildlife Images (2009)

Bands and Horses

When I think of traditional parades, I think of floats, bands and horses.  Ashland’s parade is definitely not traditional.  We don’t do well in the “floats” category.  We do better in the “band” category.  Thanks to the Ashland City Band and American Band College (photos shown in Part 1), we get to hear some rousing band music as we watch the parade go by.

Thanks to El Tapatio Mexican restaurant, we also have horses in the Ashland parade most years.  These are beautiful horses, even dancing horses that really impress me.  Enjoy the brief video clip below.

El Tapatio restaurant horses (2012)

El Tapatio restaurant – dancing horse video

Dogs of All Shapes and Sizes

Then we get into dogs of all shapes and sizes.  Here are a few to refresh your memory of funny dog moments from parades you have attended.  I remember in the 1990’s a community group used to walk with 15 to 20 wiener dogs (okay, dachshunds).  I was always amazed that those short-legged, sometimes big-tummied dachshunds could walk the entire parade route.  Below you will see a genuine 4th of July “hot dog.”

From big horse to tiny poodle (2010)

Friends of the Animal Shelter (2013)

Friends (and hot dogs) of the Animal Shelter (2010)

Canine Companions (2017)

Canine Companion in action (2017)

Princess Riding a Unicorn

This is not a horse photo.  This is a real princess riding a real unicorn.  They graced us with their presence here in the rough and tumble “real world” back in the 2006 parade.

Even unicorns! (2006)

More Ashland Community Groups

Here are photos of an assortment of community groups and students from years 2011 to 2017.  I am sure you will recognize many of them.  You might even be active in one or more of these community groups.

Returned Peace Corps volunteers (2011)

Boy Scouts (2011)

Ashland Food Bank & Food Project (2017)

Indivisible Oregon District 2 (2017)

Southern Oregon University football team (2012)

Ashland High School football – since 1898 (2014)

Two Ashland Businesses

Two Ashland businesses stand out for me as I remember many years of parades.  I already mentioned one – El Tapatio Mexican restaurant – in connection with horses.  They also bring colorful Mexican dancers who brighten the parade with their traditional dresses.

The other business that has grabbed my attention through the years is Southside Tattoo.  I am not personally a tattoo aficionado, but I have enjoyed their souped up cars and motorcycles.

Southside Tattoo business often enters cool cars or motorcycles (2011)

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

More Tradition

Many kids love big trucks, especially fire trucks.  Ashland Fire & Rescue comes through with at least one big, bright, red fire engine each year.  I remember years ago seeing a dalmation in the driver’s seat.  In recent years, several youth have had the thrill of riding in the fire engine and waving to the crowd (but not driving the truck).

It wouldn’t be a parade without the fire truck – Ashland Fire & Rescue (2013)

Speaking of fire, Smokey the Bear says “Don’t play with matches.” (2013)

One more truck – Recology recycling truck (2017)

Youth Dance and Gymnastics

Judging from Ashland parades, many young girls (and a few young boys) participate in dance classes and gymnastics.  Seeing their enthusiasm and the moves of the older teens is one of my favorite parts of the 4th of July parade each year.

When you see the photos and video below, or when you see them in the parade, remember that they are doing dance moves and flips on hot pavement, generally on a hot day, for 1.1 miles.

Here are the entertaining youth dancers (2009)

Serious gymnastics skills on hot pavement for a 1.1 mile parade (2016)

YMCA gymnasts in action (2017)

Quirky and Serious

I will close with photos of people who are making a statement.

The non-GMO movement is strong in Ashland (2014)

Make Art Not War (2014)

The Final Parade Entry

For many years, the colorful and lively drum and dance group called Samba Like It Hot was the final group in the parade.  As they went by, people flowed out from the sidewalks into Main Street and followed them to the Plaza — and then on to food booths, craft booths and music at the Lithia Park bandshell.

For many years, the Samba Like it Hot drummers and dancers have closed the parade (2012)

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


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!