Reflecting on the Fourth: Celebrants take stock

Kate Womack and Russell Phillips in Lithia Park on the Fourth of July. Art Van Kraft photo for Ashland.news
July 5, 2022

Ashlanders glad festivities are back, but not happy with some societal changes

By Art Van Kraft for Ashland.news

The first Fourth of July parade in three years in Ashland got underway Monday with a more modest crowd than past parades, but there was no shortage of opinions and observations among the many Ashland residents who went. 

Parade volunteer Jerry Price, an Ashland resident since 1989, was doing crowd control at the entrance to Lithia Park. Price says this year’s Fourth of July parade has been important to help heal the community, a community changed because of the COVID-19 shutdown. But Price says he’s seen larger changes looming over Ashland as well. 

Volunteer Jerry Price works crowd control at the Ashland 4th of July celebration. Art Van Kraft photo for Ashland.news

“Ashland was always a different place, people dressed and acted differently than they do now. I came from out of the area too, but I find the area more gentrified now,” he said. “We moved to Oregon, now we live in what I call ‘Oregon-Cali.’ My wife and I lived in Bend for a while and saw the same thing there. The population jumped from 35,000 to over a 100,000 now and many of them own third and fourth homes.

“Oregon’s losing some of its caring attitude that we found when we moved here, and it’s replaced with an attitude of entitlement.”

Price gets word on his radio that someone is heading his way riding a bike. A middle-aged woman on a bike approaches. Price tells her she has to stop, that she’s creating a danger to others. The woman gets off the bike and says something about how others are a danger to her. 

Afterwards, Price remarks, “I call that verbal judo, and it’s an example of how things have changed.”

Across the park on a green stretch of grass, Kate Womack kept her eye on two small kids who belong to her boyfriend. She said the parade is what you might expect after a long layoff and there was only one real disappointment. 

“It was great to see the community coming together again. We were looking forward to a little candy being thrown, but we got tooth brushes instead. That’s super great too, but not the same,” she laughed. 

Womack is a beekeeper and educator who moved to Ashland from Los Angeles six years ago. She says the area’s population growth is a double-edged sword. 

“It’s nice to see growth in Ashland, as long as it’s still a safe environment, healthy growth,” Womack said.

Her boyfriend, Russell Phillips, was standing beside her, keeping an eye on his children. In the 22 years he has lived in Ashland, he said this year’s parade was important. 

“It’s great to see the community get back together supporting the parade,” Phillips said. “There doesn’t seem to be as many people today as in past years. I still think it’s important to have these events. When I first moved here, we had our first art walk. There were a lot of art galleries in town and some of that stuff has gone away over the years. I feel like there’s a lot less music and culture here than there used to be.

“As people move in and retire here, it pushes some of the younger artistic people out. Then we see a lot less of contemporary art over the years. I hope there will be a resurgence sometime soon.” 

Phillips says he is pleased that the Friday Silent Disco has returned to the park and hopes Ashland will welcome more changes in the future. 

Izzy Bolton and Jasper Hassan along the 4th of July Parade route. Art Van Kraft photo for Ashland.news

Twelve-year-old Jasper Hassan and 13-year-old Izzy Bolton were hanging out near Second Street after the parade. Both girls said they were excited to see it, now that they were older.

 “I was too young to remember much about the other parades, but this time I like the themes that showed women’s rights and were pro choice,” Jasper said. 

As the crowd slowly inched its way home on Main Street, D’anne Shaw, a retired nurse who worked at the V.A. in White City, said she saw the parade as an edited version of something she considers important to the community. 

“I think we try to support people from all parts of the world and that many of us are thinking about the community as a whole and not just (as) individuals,” Shaw said. “I think I’ve been here long enough to see the different waves of families. There are lots of families coming with young children now, and I love that.” 

Steve Shaw and D’anne Shaw on the sidewalk on Siskiyou Boulevard in front of a mock-up of five Supreme Court robes hanging from red coat hangers. Art Van Kraft photo for Ashland.news

Shaw watched the parade with her husband, Steve Shaw, a retired physician who also worked at the Veterans Administration facility in White City. 

“I love the Ashland parade and I think it’s very unique,” Steve Shaw said. “It continues to strive for that uniqueness. People were coming out of the fog so to speak, so this was a beginning. Sure there were a lot of things missing that we enjoyed, but over all, it was a good effort to get people back out and in the spirit of the community.” 

On a lawn behind the Shaws and in full view of the street stood a unique sculptural display.  Its creator, who chose to identify herself only as Katie, said she put it up to represent the five Supreme Court Justices who voted to overturn Roe vs Wade. (A sixth justice, Chief Justice John Roberts, concurred, but would have limited the decision to apply to only the case at hand, not overturning the prior precedent.)

“The pink part is the hanger that will be used to terminate (pregnancies),” Katie explained. She said she erected the display June 24, when the majority decision came out, but the parade was a good opportunity to get more exposure. 

“A lot of younger kids have been coming up asking what it means, so I explained what rights had been taken away from them,” she said. She declined to give her full name or pose for a photo. “It’s a little risky, it’s a really nervous and nerve-racking environment right now and very real people have guns.”

Art Van Kraft is an artist living in Ashland and a former broadcast journalist and news director of a Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate. Email him at artukraft@msn.com.

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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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