Despite the rain, annual parade draws crowd to downtown Corvallis

So what if the temperature is clinging to the low side of 50 and all the doggies in the Tail Waggers entry stopped every once in a while to shake off the rain? This is Oregon, and a crowd four deep turned out on each side of the five-block parade route Friday night to see the 28th annual Corvallis Community Christmas Parade.

They huddled under awnings and in business doorways, under umbrellas and in thick rain gear.

But 9-year-old Ericka Butzer had her faux fur panda hood to keep her warm — and she was laughing with her friend Sara Remple, 8, who was wearing a monkey hat. Like most of the children who came out, they stood right next to the curb, the better to snag candy and yell greetings to the parade participants.

“Merry Christmas!” the girls shouted as the dancers from the Corvallis Belly Dance Performance Guild wiggled by, wearing dark leggings and warm long-sleeved tops under their diaphanous, coin-decorated outfits.

“I love your dress!,” shouted Sara.

Teresa Moser and Phil Remple, who brought the girls to the parade from their home in Albany, said a little rain isn’t likely to spoil a holiday parade for Oregonians: “We’re used to it.”

Heidi Barclay, a 2000 graduate of Santiam Christian, lives in Harrisburg now, but she and her husband were in town visiting relatives for Thanksgiving, so they brought their children, James, 7; Daniel, 5, and Corbin, 2, out for the parade.

While she tried to keep Corbin from wandering into passers-by, the older children kept busy catching candy. Also available against the cold: free hot chocolate and apple cider.

This year’s theme was “A Cornucopia of Christmas Memories,” and it honored parade grand marshals Jack and Vera Richey and their family. For almost 50 years, they operated a local grocery business in Corvallis and the mid-valley until they closed their final store in October 2010.

The parade also honors the cornucopia of different groups represented by Corvallis, including businesses, nonprofits and even a large contingent of four-legged entries.

Some — including the main attractions from the 4-H Lucky Longneck Llama Club — walked by with their ears in the “uncertain” position, reacting to the sound of horns from vintage trucks and autos.

Skip Volkman of the Lions Club, who serves as parade emcee each year, said he wonders almost each year if the weather will keep people home, but it seldom does. However, when the weather is better, the pace of the parade is more leisurely. After starting at 7 p.m., the event ended with the lighting of the tree in front of the Benton County Courthouse, promptly at 8:07 by the courthouse clock. Volkman was assisted at the microphone this year by chiropractor Cory Ann Imhof, who recently moved to Corvallis from Portland.

Imhof also was impressed by the crowd’s good nature in the face of bad weather. “Something about Oregonians,” she said. “We have gills.”

The parade is sponsored by the Corvallis Lions Club and the Downtown Corvallis Association, assisted by the Corvallis Police Department, the Radio Club, Benton County Public Works, and many volunteers.

Theresa Novak is the city editor and opinion page editor at the Corvallis Gazette-Times. She can be reached at theresa.novak@lee.net or 541-758-9527.

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