4th Coming

JACKSONVILLE — A community Fourth of July picnic will be held on the grounds of the former Jackson County Courthouse from noon to 3 p.m.

"We really don't do anything on July Fourth and I don't think we should be in a position to try to compete with the parades in Central Point and Ashland," said Mayor Paul Becker, who came up with the idea.

Participants could watch parades in the morning in other communities, enjoy the picnic, then go on to other celebrations.

An old photo that shows a picnic table set up outside the courthouse with men in suits and women in hats and dresses helped inspire Becker. He said it isn't known when the event took place or what was being celebrated.

Everyone on the City Council liked the idea, said Becker, who estimated that less than $1,000 would be spent from the Parks, Recreation and Visitors Services Department budget. City staff will work with local organizations on the event and virtually every organization in town has said it will participate, said the mayor.

"They are very enthusiastic in their patriotism," said Becker.

The picnic will be a bring-your-own food and beverage event. Picnic tables with tablecloths and chairs will be set up on the lawn with seating for 150 people at a time. The Jacksonville/Applegate Rotary Club is donating use of its large gas grill, formerly used at the Britt Festival, for the event.

The event is open to anyone and not limited to Jacksonville residents, Becker said.

Picnickers are asked to bring their own table service to help reduce costs, although the city will have items available. Watermelon and bottled water will be provided by the city, Alcoholic beverages are not permitted on the courthouse grounds under city ordinance.

Lions Club members will provide the tables, a service they do for a number of civic events throughout the year, for a small fee that benefits the group's charitable work.

Children's events including a tug-of-war, watermelon eating contest and dunk tank, which will be organized by the Fire Department.

Jacksonville Boosters Club will also help with arrangements. In addition, the group puts out flags along California Street, parts of Fifth Street, at the court house and Old City Hall, and in several parks in town. They'll also create a banner for the event.

"We were more than willing to support the mayor in this endeavor," said Boosters President Steve Casaleggio. "We'll see how it goes."

Becker grew up in New York City during the depression and said big Fourth of July celebrations were the norm with free concerts and events held throughout the city.

"Patriotism was never unpopular and it shouldn't be now," said Becker.

A sound system and recorded music will be arranged by City Manager Jeff Alvis, but bigger things could be ahead.

"We kind of want to see what our turnout is this year and may have a live band next year," said Alvis. "We don't know what to expect."

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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