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July 4 : Putting our best feet forward

July 4 in Hood River presented a true display of community.

From the large number of enthusiastic runners and walkers in the Joe Kollas-Jerry Cranmer Run to the excellent organization of the parade and events at Jackson Park to the stunning fireworks display over the Columbia River that night, it all amounted to a full day and night of spirited celebration of our nation’s 237th birthday.

Near-perfect weather smiled on Independence Day parades in Hood River and Odell, and Jackson Park activities following the parade.

Tom Yates couldn’t control the weather but he could control the parade and park events, and he and his fellow volunteers deserve kudos for keeping the machine well-oiled.

We saw a parade full of horses — many horses — and bikes and people getting into the “go the extra mile” theme and, of course, using extensive red-white-and-blue décor.

The array of “horses” included area rodeo queens, Hood River Equestrians and comical sword play by “armored knights” in clever horseback costumes, courtesy of Immanuel Lutheran Church.

With the parade the community got to celebrate things as diverse as the 9-10 District softball championship team, upcoming vacation Bible schools, rodeos of Eastern Oregon and local business and agriculture.

Apples, bananas, pears, and even a pomegranate made their way down the street — that is, in the guises of people wearing colorful felt costumes and promoting the local farm economy.

Both rival Oregon universities were represented: a Duck hammed it up for UO and a Beaver waved to the crowd representing Oregon State Parks.

The smiles of cheerleaders, softball players, martial arts students and senior citizens added much to the parade’s broad-based procession of the places and activities that make Hood River and the Gorge such a vibrant place to live.

There was not much music, but a bagpiper, drummers, Harmony of the Gorge singers and a four-piece marching band kept things lively.

“Two things stood out to me this year,” Yates said. “One was, I felt like we had more (parade) entries than last year and people really took time to put things together with the theme of ‘Go the Extra Mile.’

“The other thing was, I was a little late in getting to the parade so had to park down near the pool and walk back, and as I got to the area of 13th and May, there was just a mass of people there — not just in the park but in the street — and I’ve never seen such a crowd of people in Hood River.

“Those things really made all the work I did getting ready for the event worthwhile.”

To top it off, in the third year of the parade’s “No candy” rule, it appeared there was full compliance with the policy. That brought all kids’ and adults’ eyes upwards to the parade itself. It truly does make a difference in helping people connect with those who are marching, riding, or galloping in the parade. The people taking the time to be in the parade is where the focus should be. All told, the July 4 parade and other events did much to bring community together, by reminding ourselves of the things that our neighbors are involved in and care about.

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