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Metzger comes out in force for 100th birthday celebration

by: Geoff Pursinger Hundreds of Metzger residents march down Locust Street during Saturday's centennial parade.

About 1,000 people made their way to Metzger Park on Saturday to celebrate the town's 100th birthday.

At times the 7-acre park was so crowded it was hard to get around.

'It was certainly the biggest thing we know of that's ever happened at the park,' said Jim Long, a local historian who helped put on Saturday's event. 'We are very pleased with it.'

The celebration - filled with music, food and festivities - was the culmination of two years of work.

'A centennial is a very positive thing,' Long said. 'By looking back at our heritage and seeing where things came from, people will have more of a vision for the future. The more solid we are in the past, the better concept we will have for the future.'

A crowd gathered outside of Metzger Elementary School for a few brief words Saturday morning and then families on bikes and pulling wagons marched down Locust Street in a parade to the park.

'Metzger definitely is a community,' said Joy Gates, who watched the parade with her family. 'We all come back and stick together, and when there is an event like this, everyone shows up and chances are you are either in it or you're watching it. It's still a small town even though it's connected to Tigard and so close to Beaverton.'

That sense of community is what drew many of the party-goers to the park.

For Metzger resident Steve Gonzalez, the centennial was a way to show his children the importance of local history.

'Time can pass in a hurry,' he said as he watched his 2-year-old daughter Bella climb money bars at Metzger Park. 'It is important for kids to realize there is history in the places they are living.'

The centennial gave Metzger the chance to be in the spotlight, Gonzalez said, which is something new for the town of less than 4,000 people.

'Metzger is kind of an under-appreciated community,' Gonzalez said. 'It's really small and most people have never heard of it but it is a really family-oriented place. This park is great, we come here all the time with the kids.'

Ups and downs

Metzger Park was the natural choice to hold the centennial, but many who attended Saturday's celebration remember the park's darker past.

'When my kids were little, we very rarely went to the park because it wasn't a very nice place to be,' said Metzger resident Terri Stewart. 'But today I take the grandkids all the time. We love it. It has changed so much.'

Stewart has lived in Metzger for 24 years and said the park was once a haven for drug dealers.

'It was a shady place,' she said.

Nicole Berg, chairwoman of the Metzger Park Advisory Board agreed.

Back in the 1970s, the park's meeting hall was deserted, she said.

'It was run down, boarded up, it was gone,' she said. 'This park has been through ups and down, it has had a roller coaster of a life.'

That is, Berg said, until Pat Whiting showed up.

'Pat Whiting spent so much time, energy and volunteer hours and we rebuilt it and now it's a treasure for everyone to use,' she said.

Whiting, who died last June from cancer, went on to serve in the Oregon Legislature and was a relentless advocate in the Metzger community, cleaning up the park, and fighting annexation in the 1980s.

Long, who has written about Whiting and her accomplishments both in and out of the Legislature, wept as he read a remembrance of Whiting's accomplishments during Saturday's ceremony.

'I have never had such difficulty in reading something I had written before,' Long said.

The centennial celebration was held in conjunction with a special ceremony to rename the park meeting hall after Whiting.

'There is a season for all things, and Pat's season has come,' said Washington County Commissioner Roy Rogers. 'She was an inspiration and she gave a great deal of perspiration to make this happen as well as being an activist. It is an honor that we follow her in opening doors for future generations.'