As always, Sweet Home’s timber town pride was on display Saturday morning during the 2019 Sportsman’s Holiday Grand Parade, with a number of gleaming log trucks joining the procession, honking their horns and revving their engines as they rolled through the heart of town on Highway 20 and back on Long Street.
This year, however, several of the logging vehicles sported the banners of Timber Unity, the political movement that sprang up in response to the carbon cap-and-trade measure in this year’s legislative session. Others showed their support more discreetly, with small window stickers on the cabs of their trucks.
House Bill 2020 sparked a backlash from loggers, truckers, farmers and other rural Oregonians who said it would threaten their livelihoods and viewed it as an effort by left-leaning city dwellers to impose their values on the rest of the state. It also triggered a walkout by Republican legislators, many of whom fled the state to keep the measure from coming to a vote. In the end, HB 2020 died after enough Democrats defected to deny it a majority.
Two wildland fire rigs belonging to Cascade Timber Consulting and a fully loaded Robert L. Rice log truck carried large Timber Unity banners with the slogan “It’s time to stand up for working Oregonians” in Saturday’s parade, and all seemed to be warmly received by the spectators gathered along the route.
Nick Desmond, accompanied by wife Angie and their 1 ½-year-old son, Boone, was behind the wheel of the log truck on Saturday and said he and another Robert L. Rice driver participated in one of the Timber Unity protests at the state Capitol.
“It felt amazing,” Desmond said. “It felt really good to be part of something like that.”
The message that he and the other Timber Unity members were trying to spread by driving in the Sportsman’s Holiday Grand Parade was simple, he added: “It’s time for rural Oregon to come together and have their voice heard.”
Near the back of the procession, a pickup truck affiliated with the Oregon First! political action committee promoted a campaign to recall Gov. Kate Brown, who championed the cap-and-trade bill and has said she’ll work outside the Legislature to enact measures limiting carbon emissions.
In the back of the truck was a toilet containing a cardboard cutout of the governor with the slogan “Flush down Kate Brown.”
Most parade participants, however, steered clear of politics and simply reveled in the small-town traditions of the Sportsman’s Holiday.
Leading the way was a nine-person color guard, carrying flags and marching in military fashion.
Right behind them came a float carrying this year’s grand marshal, Gemma, a police dog with the local department. The German shepherd seemed more interested in playing tug-of-war with her handler than in playing to the crowd, but nobody seemed to mind.
A Salvation Army float carried a four-piece brass band, which serenaded onlookers with the Dixieland strains of “When the Saints Come Marching In.”
A shiny white pickup truck on loan from a local car dealership carried the Sportsman’s Holiday Court, four young women in flowing dresses who smiled and did the princess wave as they rolled down the street.
There were classic cars, horseback riders, Grand Ronde tribal members in ceremonial regalia, local politicians and business people, colorful costumes and people handing out candy and Otter Pops.
Connie Debusschere of Sweet Home, owner of Canine Training Adventures, rode on a float promoting the business with her English shepherd, Memphis, along with several of her clients and their canine companions. In keeping with the parade’s Mardi Gras theme, both dogs and owners were decked out in strings of plastic beads and other colorful touches.
Debusschere said it was her first time riding in the parade and she was looking forward to the chance to show what her dogs can do.
“They’ll wave to the crowd, and we’ll have two of them sitting up together,” she said.
Sweet Home Cheer brought a contingent of about 80 cheerleaders, with about 50 younger girls riding on a hay wagon while the high school cheer squad walked behind, stopping periodically along the parade route to perform some of their routines.
And Elaina Hartness, 7, rode her pony, Peaches, while her mother, Cera Hartness, walked at her side.
All three were dolled up for the occasion: Elaina wore a rainbow-colored tutu, Mardi Gras beads and a feathered mask, while Peaches had glitter in her mane and a big bouquet of artificial flowers mounted behind her saddle.
“She’s actually got my flowers from when I was rodeo queen,” said Cera Hartness, whose parents ran the local rodeo for many years until it shut down about a decade ago.
“We’re hoping one day to get it started back up again,” added Hartness, who wore her 2008 Sweet Home Rodeo Queen belt buckle.
The parade route was lined with spectators, including local resident Jeromy Moore, who watched from the curb on Highway 20 with son Jace and daughter Tonja.
Jace, 16, said his favorite thing about the parade is “watching the cars drive by,” while his 7-year-old sister had a one-word answer to the same question: “Beads.”
For their dad, who comes to watch every year, the parade holds another attraction.
“Just all the people being in town,” Moore said. “The town comes alive.”
Other Sportsman's Holiday events on Saturday included the Logger's Olympics, the East Linn Museum Yard Sale, the Singing Christmas Tree Arts and Crafts Show, the Town Festival, the Cascade K-9 Jamboree and a fireworks show.
The annual summer shindig wraps up today with the final round of the Cascade K-9 Jamboree, a fundraiser for the Sweet Home Police Department’s dog program, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the athletic field at Sweet Home Junior High School, 880 22nd Ave. Admission is $5 for adults, free for children and dogs.