Eight-year-old Lilly Morrish was nervous about dancing before an estimated 27,000 people in Ashland's Fourth of July parade — the city's largest annual gathering — but she understood the significance of the small-town event.
"It's great for all of Ashland to see what the rest of Ashland is doing," she said. "I bet that a lot of people out there are probably very excited to see these floats and dancers."
With a troupe of about 100 children from Ashland's Danceworks, Lilly stomped her feet and waved her hands to the song "Rock Your Body" in the 10:15 a.m. parade down Siskiyou Boulevard to East Main Street. Parade judges awarded the dancers with first place in the children's division.
Circus Tribal Bellydance took first place in the adult division, Hula troupe Ka Pi'o O Ke Anuenue in the family and neighborhood groups division, Ashland Arts Center in the nonprofit division, Rogue Valley Rotary Clubs in the social and service division and Rodger Busse in the vehicle division. Judges selected the Blue Giraffe Day Spa as the grand winner, for its float featuring locals dressed as classic movie stars, such as Marilyn Monroe.
"I emceed the parade and it was absolutely phenomenal to see the community sprit," said Katharine Flanagan, marketing director for the Ashland Chamber of Commerce.
"You just get chills hearing the jets fly over, seeing all the children and the dancers, and singing 'The Star Spangled Banner.'"
Flanagan estimated that 27,000 people attended the parade — a few thousand more than last year — because of opportune weather. Temperatures hovered around 80 degrees during the parade.
A few dozen people missed the parade or arrived late, because of a problem with the shuttle bus service the chamber organized to run between south Ashland and downtown. A miscommunication resulted in Laid Law Bus Company not providing shuttle service until 2 p.m., after the parade had ended.
"I would like to say I do apologize for any inconvenience we caused for anyone," Flanagan said at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. "We've tried to make it right and we're getting a driver out there."
The parade's theme was "All of Ashland's a Stage," a nod to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's 75th anniversary this year, as well as the other performing arts groups in the city. OSF Executive Director Paul Nicholson served as grand marshal of the celebration.
"I'm honored," he said before the parade. "Ashland and the festival have a very symbiotic relationship. It's hard to imagine one growing in the right direction, without the other. We certainly wouldn't exist in the way we do without the support of locals and the city."
Dozens of OSF company members and volunteers marched in the parade, wearing hats from previous productions and carrying signs listing every play the festival has featured.
About 1,000 people participated in the parade, divided into about 100 groups.
Thousands more lined sidewalks on the parade route, watching the classic cars, tractors and dancers stream past.
Three generations of the Davis family attended the parade, setting up chairs in the same spot along Siskiyou Boulevard where they have sat for more than a dozen years.
Wearing a hat beribboned with red, white and blue, Isabell Davis, 94, sat beside her daughter, Leslie. Leslie's daughter, Addie, rode a bicycle in the parade.
"It's terrific," Isabell Davis said, watching the parade. "It's the best yet. It gets better every year. It's the way the Fourth of July should be."
After the procession ended at about noon on Water Street, Lilly said she had forgotten about being nervous as soon as she began to dance. "It's fun, because if you mess up a little on a dance, you just have to keep on dancing," she said.
Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-482-3456 ext. 226 or email@example.com.