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The parade before the parade offers glimpse of floats, antique cars

The best place to view Ashland’s colorful Fourth of July parade might be before the parade actually starts.

For early birds, a stroll around Triangle Park on Siskiyou Boulevard allows you to get personal with the floats, antique cars and, of course, the people behind the event who have queued up on the side streets.

You can see dancers practicing their steps, gymnasts warming up to do flips and those putting that last minute shine on their rigs before rolling down the boulevard in front of thousands of enthusiastic viewers.

Vintage cars always draw lots of onlookers, including one from collector Ron Rezek, who had his majestic 1937 Rolls Royce Phantom on display, providing eye candy with its sparkling royal blue finish and burled mahogany dash. The bespoke car has only 25,000 miles on it, Rezek said.

“It was built for a maharajah in India,” he said.

At 212-inches long, it barely fits in his 213-inch deep garage.

Along with antique cars, there were plenty of new ones, including a sharp looking white Corvette with red seats for Sen. Alan DeBoer. Teslas also were popular for transporting officials, with hybrid owners lusting after these popular all-electric vehicles that are the brain child of inventor and entrepreneur Elon Musk.

For kids, the vintage fire trucks were a source of amusement as they rang their bells and fired up their sirens.

One fire truck in particular got some unexpected attention.

You could see the surprise on the faces of supporters of the Southern Oregon Historical Society when judges presented the first place award for vehicles for the restored 1946 Ford 1-1/2 ton fire engine that had been sitting in Shady Cove for 20 years.

“Really, are you serious?” said Doug McGeary, board president for the historical society, who enthusiastically placed the award sign on the fire truck, which made its debut in its first public event after restoration.

Young children clambered over the bright red truck to the amusement of Medford historian Ben Truwe, who helped spearhead the 13-month effort to get the dilapidated vehicle road worthy again along with Rick Black. Nicknamed the “amphibious fire engine,” the vehicle fell into Ashland Creek in 1948, but its red warning light continued. The fire truck served Ashland for 30 years and continued to work until about 20 years ago.

When it was donated to the historical society by Lee Newton, there was a lot of concern whether it could run again.

“We made sure the engine turned over,” said Truwe, originally worried the motor had rusted up inside.

After draining the water out of the transmission and steering box, Truwe and other helpers rebuilt the distributor, the carburetor and wiring harnesses.

They haven’t been able to get the radio to work, but the siren still puts out a loud whine, much to the delight of children, some of whom took a ride in the parade. The maximum speed of the fire truck, which has a governor, is 45 mph.

With a limited $1,000 budget, the fire-engine restoration relied on a lot of volunteer efforts, including historical society board member Greg Applen, who built the ladder, and retired Medford firefighter Phil Kessler, who milled local oak for the seat.

One of the biggest donations was a set of tires from TP Trucking in Central Point.

Considering the age of the fire truck, McGeary said at one point, “I hope it starts.”

Truwe turned the key and the engine fired right up, purring softly at idle.

“It sounds really smooth,” McGeary said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

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