Corbett Fun Fest evokes patriotism, hometown pride
Decorated tractors from local farms, glittery horses, classic cars and handmade floats took to the streets Tuesday, July 4, when the Corbett Fun Fest kicked off its daylong celebration of Independence Day. Children scrambled for candy thrown by parade participants, while people on the sidelines were decked out in their most patriotic attire.
The crowds along the parade route may have been large, but the event maintained its small town sense of community.
Sydney Mershon, of Corbett, rode her horse, Sky, for the first time in this year's parade. Sky was covered in blue glitter, and Mershon, 16, was anxious to put her horse through its paces.
"(The parade) is a way to show off your heritage and things you've taken care of," Mershon said. "It's kind of patriotic."
The parade followed the annual pancake breakfast scholarship fundraiser hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Columbia River Gorge. It is the largest event to kick off the day.
"The community participation is great and you get to see friends and neighbors in the parade," said Matt Leamy, Fun Fest co-organizer.
For Ryan Telford and his family, the parade was nothing new — except for this year's float.
Telford's father, Bob, lives on farmland in Corbett and has been involved in the parade for years. That means, by heritage, Telford has too.
"I rode my tricycle in it (when I was younger)," Telford said. "I've been bringing my son out here. He usually drives something — a farm vehicle — and he just loves it."
This year, the family decided to do something different. They created a Hall of Justice float to honor Marvel superheroes. Telford was the new Aquaman and his son, Jaiden, 12, was Batman.
Every year, about 5,000 people attend Corbett's Fourth of July festival. While the parade is the largest attraction at the Fun Fest, the fun continues all afternoon and into the evening, with live music, games and fireworks.
The ever-popular mole-judging contest took place, with awards going to those who showed off their catch in categories such as most moles captured, the largest, smallest and most unusual.
Leamy remembers people putting moles in dioramas, and one mole dressed as Elvis.
Volunteers from the Quilts of Valor Foundation (QOV) were on hand to present several area veterans with a handmade quilt. The program is part of a national group, that design and assemble quilts destined for veterans from all branches of the military.
Still, not everyone who takes part in the Fun Fest are from Corbett.
Andy Svesko, of Troutdale, likes that the event draws in people from other cities.
"It's always been a local staple," Svesko said. "You get to see an eclectic group of people."
Amy Ciecko and her family return every year and have watched the parade the last four years.
"The kids love the horses and the candy of course. The girls want to buy horses and ride in (the parade) someday," said Ciecko, of Springdale. "I like that (the parade) is small and you get to see people you know and don't know — it's friendly."
Gresham resident Elisa Bradley and her three children are regular attendees as well.
Spectators and parade participants recognize the Bradley Family by the sign they bring each year. Three different sized holes represent a number of points for the person successful at throwing candy through the holes.
"Obviously it's working, look at our bag of candy," Bradley said, laughing.
While adults and children alike share a fondness for the candy, Leamy is more smitten with the sense of community shared by those who attend the festival.
"I like seeing the community out having a picnic, sitting around with friends and seeing people you don't see on a daiy basis," he said. "My father was in the first parade. It's been around all my life (and) it's just a multigenerational community event."