Ashland City Band, Part 2: Fourth of July stories

The Ashland City Band has marched in the Ashland 4th of July Parade for more than 100 years. This photo is from the 2008 parade. Peter Finkle photo
June 26, 2022

Band member have been known to appear two and even three times in the same parade

By Peter Finkle for Ashland News

One of the highlights of Fourth of July in Ashland is hearing our Ashland City Band play at the Lithia Park Bandshell right after the Ashland Chamber’s 4th of July Parade. You can gather with hundreds of fellow community members and have a picnic lunch while you listen to John Philip Sousa marches and patriotic music. Other musical acts follow the City Band through the afternoon.

This tradition goes back more than 100 years! Here is a comparison of the July 4, 1916, program in Lithia Park and this year’s program:

• Opening music by the city band — in 1916 and today.

• Reading of the Declaration of Independence — in 1916 and today.

• The “Star Spangled Banner,” played by the city band, sung by a vocalist, accompanied by the audience — in 1916 and today.

This series of four articles on the Ashland City Band is based primarily on my interview with three men (Don Bieghler, Ed Wight and the late Raoul Maddox) who between them have 170 years of experience with the Ashland City Band.

The Firehouse 5 in the 4th of July Parade in the 1980s or 1990s. Morgan Cottle photo
One parade, three times through

Who has been in Ashland’s 4th of July Parade three different times in one parade? Only Raoul Maddox of the Ashland City Band. Here’s how it happened.

First time through: The City Band has always marched at the front of the parade, right after the motorcycle police and color guard that lead the parade. Several band members have also been in the Firehouse 5 jazz band that for many years played on the back of a pickup truck or an old fire truck.

Second time through: When Maddox was in the Firehouse 5 band, he kept his car on Water Street at the end of the parade route, then drove as fast as he could through the residential streets back to the parade starting point for his second time through.

Finally, the third time through. For three years, in the late 1960s or early 1970s, there was also an Ashland High Alumni Band that marched in the parade. These were former high school band members who came together just for fun. Well — and also for the incentive of a keg of beer from Cook’s Tavern downtown, so they could “tip a glass or two with their old friends” after the parade. During these years, Maddox somehow had to make it back to the parade start one more time to march with the Alumni Band.

Through the parade — backwards!

Ed told me his father, Dave Wight (City Band conductor from 1968 to 1976), would sometimes get a police escort back to the parade starting point, so he could make it for his second time through the parade with the Firehouse 5. In those days, the Firehouse 5 would meet before the parade in an office downtown where one of them worked. To get in the proper spirit of the parade, they consumed plenty of local “spirits” beforehand. One year when Dave played, they drove the fire truck backwards in the parade — possibly the result of a rather conspicuous consumption of local beverages that day.

Barry Kraft, standing in front of the City Band, delivers the full Declaration of Independence on July 4, 2013. Kraft has been an actor, dramaturg and more at Oregon Shakespeare Festival for 30 seasons. Peter Finkle photo
Gettysburg Address at City Band concert

Come hear the Ashland City Band play on Independence Day, July 4. The Ashland Chamber’s 4th of July Parade steps off at 10 a.m. Entertainment at Butler Bandshell in Lithia Park starts at noon. The band also plays starting at 7 p.m. every Thursday evening through Aug. 11, at the bandshell. Bring a picnic and enjoy this century-old community tradition!

As many longtime Ashlanders know, the Declaration of Independence is recited in full each Independence Day at the Lithia Park bandshell.

The year 2013 was the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. That year, local actor Bob Jackson Miner spoke the powerful words of the Gettysburg address after the Declaration of Independence was recited. The following year, band conductor Bieghler and Miner came up with an idea to add to the emotion of the Gettysburg address. Bieghler remembered a piece called “American Civil War Fantasy” that has a long drumroll during the piece. For 2014, they planned the recitation of the Gettysburg address during the drumroll with only one rehearsal before the concert.

After the 2014 concert, one of the band members told Bieghler that “I had tears coming down my eyes” as they played the piece. Community members who heard the speech were so moved that Miner has spoken the Gettysburg address each Fourth of July celebration since then.

More to come

There are still more City Band stories to tell. I will share more humorous and meaningful band stories in Parts 3 and 4 of this series about the Ashland City Band.

Peter Finkle writes about Ashland history, neighborhoods, public art and more. See WalkAshland.com for his Ashland stories.

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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