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Firefighters rush to the rescue - of light parade

Key group of parade lovers step up to save annual holiday tradition

Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES FILE PHOTO - Powered by draft horses and sparkling with lights, Forest Grove Fire & Rescues 1906 steam pumper is a favorite at the annual Holiday Light Parade.The lights almost went out on Forest Grove’s longstanding Holiday Light Parade this year.

Traditionally, the parade helps mark the day when Santa comes to town and the holiday season gets into full swing. But leaders of Forest Grove’s City Club, which coordinated the past parades, didn’t think they had the volunteers to pull off the ever-expanding event.

“We just didn’t have the volunteer base needed to make sure the parade was safe, and safety is our first consideration and highest value,” said City Club president E.J. Baeza. “”We figure you need 100 to 150 volunteers at cross streets on the parade route ... we hoped the parade would be adopted by the community.”

In addition to the parade, many City Club volunteers are already busy running Holiday in the Grove, an all-day winter festival downtown that takes place the same date as the nighttime spectacle.

But several light-parade lovers stepped in and took over, assuring Dec. 6 will begin with breakfast with Santa and end with the parade of floats, horses, vehicles and lights, lights, lights through downtown Forest Grove.

“It’s pretty simple,” said Forest Grove Fire Chief Michael Kinkade. “The Western Washington County Firefighters Association, a local charity made up of more than firefighters, saw that it needed to be done and offered to help.”

Forest Grove Fire & Rescue traditionally enters its antique steam pumper in the parade, decked with lights and pulled by huge draft horses. It’s a highlight of the event.

The Firefighter’s Association was just the beginning of offers to help, said Howard Sullivan, director of the Forest Grove/Cornelius Chamber of Commerce.

“Pat Truax, the mayor’s wife, contacted me. Jeff King, the city’s economic development manager...took the lead. In just a couple of weeks, we had a committee headed up by Camille Miller, a chamber member and a member of the city council,” Sullivan said.

Miller said when she first heard the parade might not happen, she couldn’t imagine the holiday season without it. She began calling people to break the news and everyone she called felt just as bad about it. So she decided to get involved.

The parade to-do list is daunting: permits, insurance, sponsors, publicity, volunteers, entries. But Miller has given committee members assignments and the work is getting done.

Doherty Ford will be the parade’s major sponsor.

“The [firefighters association] is a natural choice to spearhead the parade. They bring the logistics of the Fourth of July fireworks to the table,” said King, who has been involved with Holiday in the Grove since its inception.

“It’s a fun family day, beginning at 8:30 with Breakfast with Santa, and events continuing all day, including concerts at the United Church of Christ and at Pacific University, a craft fair and the traditional gingerbread house contest,” he said.

Miller is hoping to get more sponsors for the popular parade. “Mike Henningsen of Henningsen Cold Storage said he’d be a sponsor if I agreed to ride in a float with a tiara. I told him that’s not happening.” She thinks Henningsen will help sponsor anyway.

The Dec. 6 Holiday in the Grove in downtown Forest Grove culminates with the parade at 5 p.m., beginning at the north end of Main Street near Willamina Avenue, and proceeding south to 19th Avenue.

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