The COVID-19 Pandemic has changed life as we know it. Major and minor events have been cancelled and it has been very strange for us to have holidays when we aren’t able to celebrate them as we used to. Memorial day comes to mind since it is usually the unofficial beginning of the summer picnic season. Those big family gatherings were not able to be held. Now we are in actual summer and the biggest celebration looks like it’s also cancelled this year. I am referring to the usually big 4th-of-July picnics and the spectacular fireworks displays observed by hundreds if not thousands of people sitting in their lawn chairs or on blankets after spending the day swimming, boating, eating, and listening to live music.
Rather than wallow in self pity I thought I would show you my memories of the last big July 4th celebration I attended and wrote about in this column back in July of 2017.
Imagine that perfect day. Each of us has our own definition of perfect weather for the 4th of July. Whether it is for a picnic, boating on a lake or river, going to a baseball game, or attending a large gathering of people anxious to eat good food, listen to live bands in the open spaces of a state park and top the day off with a fireworks display. To me that day would be filled with sunshine, a few wispy clouds, a light breeze, temperatures in the mid 80s. Was that too much to ask for? No it was not. Well, we wished for it and we were lucky enough to get it in the past .
I was so fortunate to have the best job at the best Independence Day party in the area by being the Master of Ceremonies for the annual 4th of July celebration at Dexter Lake State Park in 2017. This was my fifth year of being a part of a great local tradition. Welcoming the people and introducing the entertainment is so much fun.
The Event Sponsor was the Pleasant Hill Boosters. Other participating sponsors were Eugene Daily News, Oregon Rains, and Kingsford Charcoal.
People started gathering early in the day to get a head start on the outdoor fun and to get their choice of exactly where they wanted to place their blanket, chairs, recreational tent canopy and/or whatever paraphernalia they brought to bring some of the modern comforts with them into the great outdoors.
It’s not quite like the simple picnics I attended as a child where all we had was a blanket to spread on the ground and a picnic basket full of food. Of course there was the obligatory sun burn due to the lack of shelter and sunscreen. Back then people used “sun tan oil” which did nothing to protect us from those burning solar rays.
The bands started playing at 3:30 PM and continued right up to the point where it became dark enough for the fireworks display. My first duty was to welcome everyone and list the sponsors and all of the various vendors who provide all sorts of food and even some cool things to purchase for yourself or gifts for others. I also explained the rules since we were in a State Park and smoking is not allowed, no personal fireworks either, and dogs should be on a leash.
The first band to take the stage was Cherry and The Low Boys. The three musicians did a great job getting things of to a great start with their Rockabilly and Blues music. You can contact them at: [email protected]. The tough job I had as MC was to introduce the band, then enjoy the music, and meet the people. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.
Next up was a group called Goodbye Silence https://www.facebook.com/goodbyesilence. Their raucous enthusiasm played well with the crowd. Check out their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/goodbyesilence/
The third band Axis Salvation https://www.facebook.com/AxisSalvation/ were veterans of this celebration returning to some familiar faces who enjoyed their music in previous years.
In keeping with the summertime celebration of the 4th of July The Men From S.U.R.F. played most of the early surfing songs made famous by the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean. Here is their web page: The Men From S.U.R.F.
Band number 5 has also performed here before and were immediately recognized by many. Bodhi’s Zhafa may be a strange name for a band, but one band member explained that the name came from what his family called his late father. Here is their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BodhisZafa/
As the old saying goes “and last but not least” the final band to perform, Jet Harris and His Hot Rod Hellcats, were new to the venue and had the attention of the crowd that was anxiously awaiting the fireworks. Here is their Facebook contact information: Jet Harris And His HotRod Hellcats
All through the day and evening children and adults alike came up in front of the bands and danced to the great music.
I finished with a big thank you to the sponsors, the vendors, the bands, and of course all of the people who joined us. For my fifth year I again ended my MC duties by reading one of my favorite historical speeches. To me Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is one of the most emotional and impactful speeches ever written.
I then introduced Andrea Van Sickle who did a stunning job of singing our National Anthem a cappella. When she finished the crowd broke out into applause and shouts of approval.
Topping off the perfect Independence Day Celebration was the fireworks display with, as usual, did not disappoint. The fireworks burst in the air reminiscent of the words from the National Anthem.
Special thanks have to go to Mike Cockerline who kept this event going year after year and to Kelly Asay, Publisher of Eugene Daily News, who worked tirelessly each year to organize the entertainment and much more.
Such great memories of Dexter Lake State Park, all of the people, the food, the bands and the fireworks. The hope we all have is that next summer everything will be back to what we might call normal and we’ll be able to get together and celebrate in a big way again.
Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].