Arts, Entertainment and Events, Front Page, Oakridge/Westfir

The sixty-ninth annual Tree Planting Festival parade: back in full swing in ’22

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Rain, rain go away, because here they come!

By JOHN ROSS/for The Herald —   The signs from the “heavens” and all the folks invested in keeping their eyes trained on the skies for spiritual or scientific reasons were clear. A deluge was pending. Imminent. Ominous. Foreboding. Unavoidable.

Judging from the rains of all those recent nights and most days that came before, and will likely be after, who could argue? Who dared? No point. It would be what it was.

The Tree Planting Court Princesses were indeed ready for the parade and the weather. The TPF Queen is Sherry Terral. Kevin Gobelman photo

Parade, yes, weather or not

DeerJohn: And old timer driving an old timey tractor still chugging along with enough left in the tank to pull a float full of children. John Ross photo

Except that all the people who showed up—like so many Who’s from Whoville–with umbrellas in hand and amped-up kids in tow—simply refused to believe the worst.

If either Westfir, which was represented, or Oakridge has a Grinch, it had the good sense or common decency not to show its green, Grinchy mug.

Somehow, the clouds started lifting—barely enough for the Tree Planting Parade motors to fire up and get mobilizing.


Let the parade begin


Oakridge must be tightening their budget by making their fleet last a little longer. Truck courtesy of Oakridge Pioneer Museum  Kevin Gobelman photo

Paraders on floats, many quite lovely by any standards, somehow advanced up First Street at walkable speeds, moistened, but not drenched. Virtually all seemed grateful that the weather lightened from rain to showers to mists to harmlessly overcast skies.

In all, a small miracle, but adequate

So, smiles shined abundantly on EITHER side of Main Street. Even from those sworn off sugary treats smiled, no matter how carefully, individually wrapped in their many, many forms—sprinkled or chocolate-covered. Crunchy or chewy. Gooey or crystalline.

Everything wasn’t all candy and wrapped goodies, as some distinctly inedible gifts (Frisbees) sailed out of the biggest red fire truck you’ve ever seen. Mayor Christina Hollett rode shotgun with husband at the wheel and kids in the back jump seats.

Mom’s biggest challenge seemed to be convincing the eager dispensing elves in the back to hold back some flying orbs for the predictable throngs ahead. They would be just as deserving and every bit as thrilled, she tried to explain.

It was all good, and most of it was sweet

Westfir looks ready to drag race the Oakridge truck? Kevin Gobelman photo


Regardless, excessive sweet stuff would be dispensed from start to finish. Foodstuff, if candy counts. (Although, in fairness, the Girl Scouts offered juices, bottled waters and general wholesomeness.) The smaller kids got right away what was in store as the parade-leading OPD cruiser, in full-emergency flashing light display, eased by.

Kids were reaching in and drawing back sticky handfuls. Closely, (yet legally) behind, goodies were hurtled out of windows and launched out of wide-open rear hatches. Sometimes they were clustered in zipped bags or scattered loosely like laying mash before a flock of chickens.

Did some of the coveted “fastbacks’” flying candies make it to the very last kid in line? Who knows? Who cares? And who would tell, anyways? Auditors had the day off.

Sixty-nine years and counting

All ages, genders, and were obviously grateful for the revival of the 69-year tradition in this indelibly timber town and its downstream twin, Westfir.

Three lingering, tortured, confusing and confounding years had crawled, agonizingly by since the last parade. Each seemed more everlasting, eternal and more so than the previous. Next year HAD to be better, folks kept saying. But they weren’t.

Crawford and Sons Trucking Company start the parade behind an Oakridge Police Department Cruiser. Kevin Gobelman photo
The Southwest Willamette Forest Collaborative reminds us what the Tree Planting Festival is all about. Kevin Gobelman photo
PhonyPony: A young rider on a curiously colored horse comes raring along the parade route under the watchful eye of probably her mother. John Ross photo

And the parades got cancelled

Cancelled, also, was the annual opportunity to remember when, back in the day, trees had been felled, limbed, skidded and trucked until the local lumber mills lost market share and profitability and were then shuttered. Trees that should have been planted weren’t. Waves of parade marchers and wavers stayed indoors for the pandemic that’s now claimed over a million American lives. Masks, closed schools, restaurants, and people debating which guidelines to follow or flaunt. Then a searing four-day heat dome set up weeks of smoke and forest fires, crowding out the opportunity to feel good by giving back to the forest. Areas up Salmon Creek were reduced to ashen moonscapes.

So, it was well past time for a break in all the fear, doubt and suspicion and just have some good fun and watch a parade.

The Circle Bar golfers showed up en masse and zigzagged their way down 1st Street in their decorated carts Kevin Gobelman photo

Logging is still our local heritage

And, whether tree logger or hugger, townspeople or country folk, friends and families aligned briefly. Together, they watched or scrambled for candy or slyly coveted the internal combustion muscle cars from yesteryear and today. All marveled at tree-harvesting “implements of destruction”. Along with a snorty, belching, green and yellow farming tractor, there was a sunshine-yellow powder-coated logging rig forged out of “real metal.” All moved at measured, Safety-First speeds.

So many vehicles, so little time. For an hour or so, under friendly-enough skies, Saturday, June 7, 2022, everything was “all good.” Or close enough.

Now for the rest of the parade

KEZI reporter Jaewon Jung announced the parade with the assistance of Rustie Ackland. Kevin Gobelman photo
Hines Lumber Company is a huge part of the heritage of Westfir. This log truck is chain driven! Kevin Gobelman photo
Modern times- modern log trucks. This one’s even showing off his load, courtesy of Trent Jones.
CutieHat: Young woman proudly displaying Festival buttons from past years she said her grandfather had collected and gave to her. John Ross photo
A little rain wasn’t about to deter these kids from having a good time parading down 1st Street. Kevin Gobelman photo
Every parade needs horses. The rider is Eugene pro rodeo champion Clarissa Sanders. Kevin Gobelman photo
CandyRaiders: Tots scrambling for sweets while a parent carries a seedling heading for fertile ground, hopefully. John Ross photo
Soggy Band: No electrical instruments were permitted under misty skies as they tooted and fluted their way home. John Ross photo
The school district’s retiring personnel showed up to wave goodbye. Considering most of their students were in the parade- why not! Kevin Gobelman photo
Our school buses don’t always look like this. However, the day was appropriate for a little glitz. Kevin Gobelman photo
Local Boy Scout Troop showing some pride Kevin Gobelman photo
I understand the Girl Scouts took the healthy route with their snack-giving. Good for them. Kevin Gobelman photo
Handy with candy. Lots of it was given out throughout the parade. Kevin Gobelman photo
Though this picture looks ominous, the weather held firm with just a light dousing of rain. Kevin Gobelman photo
It’s not over till the cones are picked up. Someone has to do it. We all say Thanks! Kevin Gobelman photo
At the end of the parade day, Oakridge was given a sign that it was all worth it. Kevin Gobelman photo

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