Season of Lights: Corvallis (copy)

Benton County Fairgrounds, Corvallis: A staple of Corvallis for more than 30 years, the Pastega Christmas lights and cutouts moved to the Benton County Fairgrounds last year.

Jesse Skoubo, Corvallis Gazette-Times

• ROSE (roz) n. One of the most beautiful of all flowers, a symbol of fragrance and loveliness. Often given as a sign of appreciation.

• RASPBERRY (raz’ber’e) n. A sharp, scornful comment, criticism or rebuke; a derisive, splatting noise, often called the Bronx cheer.

We hereby deliver:

• ROSES to the 33rd annual edition of a wonderful local tradition: The Corvallis Community Christmas Parade kicks off at 7 tonight at Southwest Fourth Street and Washington Avenue and then marches north on Fourth to the Jackson Avenue, where the extravaganza ends with the lighting of the Benton County Courthouse. For whatever reason, Corvallis really isn't a big town for parades, but this one is special: It's always fun to see the imagination, creativity and occasional engineering know-how that goes into some of the entries. We are especially looking forward to see how some of tonight's entrants respond to the challenge in this year's theme, "Rudolph Guides Our Parade Tonight."

We also were thrilled to learn that Bond Starker, who recently retired from Starker Forests after a 42-year career, will be the parade's grand marshal. Starker did more than just lead a first-rate timber company: He and his wife, Marilyn, have been deeply involved in community activities for decades. They have helped make Corvallis a better place and have never sought out the spotlight. Well, tonight, they'll get the chance to bask in the light from what should be hundreds of Rudolph-red noses; it's a well-deserved honor.

And speaking of well-lit Corvallis traditions:

• ROSES to the Pastega Christmas Light Display, which officially opens tonight at the Benton County Fairgrounds. Mario and Alma Pastega started the display in 1981 at the Pepsi bottling company they owned; after the Pastegas sold the company, the display found new life, under the guidance of their son Ken, at the fairgrounds. Better yet, with Ken calling the shots, the display has grown a bit each year. This year's additions include a row of superheroes, including Superman, Batman and Supergirl, which could trigger some idle musings: Wouldn't the movie "Justice League" been better if it had included Supergirl?

But we digress. As the collection has grown — it now fills five trailers — so have the challenges in putting it up and taking it down. Pastega said it takes four weeks to set up. Taking it down has become quite the chore as well. A small army of volunteers has risen to the challenge. (In particular, high school art classes have become essential in the process of creating new pieces for the display.) But more volunteers always are welcome. For information about the display and how to volunteer, check out the display's website at pastegachristmaslights.com.

In the meantime, be sure to schedule some time this holiday season to drive through the display. And be sure to bring along a can of food or two; donations will benefit area food drives.

And speaking of area food drives:

• ROSES to Judy Gibson, the local woman who's been organizing Corvallis' Community Food Drive for more than two decades.

You can read more about Gibson's work in a story that appeared in Monday's Gazette-Times, but it's worth noting that in the time she's been working with the food drive, the effort has delivered boxes of food to roughly 30,000 families. It seems safe to assume that her efforts have helped to feed more than 100,000 people during that time.

Gibson, 66, works for 10 straight days in the stretch leading up to distribution day at the Benton County Fairgrounds, traditionally the Monday before Thanksgiving. But, even though she works in cooperation with Linn Benton Food Share and hundreds of volunteers, it's still a lot of work. She said the time has come for her to pass the torch to someone else. And, frankly, she's earned the right to step down — but not without a big bouquet of roses for all the work she's done over the last quarter-century or so to help feed hungry families in Benton County.

One other related note: We like to think of Corvallis as a wealthy community, and it is. But it's also good at hiding problems of poverty like hunger. Gibson noted that when she started with the food drive, it was serving 800 or so families. The number today is closer to 1,400. And the big factor driving that growth, she said, is the increased number of working families she sees at the food drive. Just food for thought on a weekend devoted in part to counting our blessings. (mm)

• ROSES to Oregon State Parks and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, for offering nice alternatives to Black Friday madness. 

Instead of battling the crowds in the stores, you can save some money on an excursion to any of the state parks that charge $5 for parking, including Silver Falls State Park. On Friday, the parking is free in those parks; get some fresh air and save the money for later. And the Department of Fish and Wildlife says that Friday and Saturday are free fishing days: You can fish, crab or clam without a license, tag or endorsement. It's a great opportunity to introduce somebody to the sport — and offers yet another opportunity to count the blessings of life in Oregon. (mm)

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