Merchants balk at length of Jacksonville fair

JACKSONVILLE — A proposed parade and fair to mark Oregon's 150th birthday that would close California Street for seven hours has the support of many, but some downtown merchants would like to see the town's main drag reopened earlier.

The City Council will consider closing streets for the June 13 parade when it meets at 7 tonight at Old City Hall, at the corner of Oregon and Main streets. A petition with 24 signatures from business operators requests a shorter street closure for California Street and that only local street vendors be allowed.

"History on Parade" would close California Street from Oregon Street to Fifth Street, and Fifth Street from California Street to E Street from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Side streets including portions of Main, C and D streets also would be closed and would have the vendor booths.

Civic organizations and city officials have planned a series of events to celebrate Oregon's sesquicentennial and Jacksonville's 150th birthday next year. The parade will feature floats, civic groups, and newer and older modes of transportation including a team of oxen. Square dances and cowboy re-enactments are scheduled on California Street after the parade.

Sharon Becker, who's heading up the parade, said she visited every business on California Street in March and distributed a description of the event.

"Everyone thought it was wonderful," Becker said, "except for the person who wrote the petition."

That was Linda Graham, owner of Scheffel's Toys, at the corner of California and Oregon streets. She circulated the petition after she heard grumbling from businesses about the length of the shutdown and fears that it would re-create the atmosphere of Pioneer Days, a former event that, she said, brought in cheap jewelry, cheap junk and cheap food.

"I'm not against the celebration. I was just trying to look out for town businesses," Graham said. "This is not the year to hurt your local businesses. It seems that 2 o'clock would be reasonable to open the main drag, but to leave the side streets closed."

"We have outside vendors, but they are not going to compete (with local businesses)," Becker said. "These are antique and vintage vendors with old hats, gloves and cowboy boots, not what (the stores) are selling."

Becker said she also informed restaurants that they might want to put up little cafes to feed the 5,000 people she expects. Food vendors she's invited offer items that people can hold in their hands such as lemonade, hot dogs, cotton candy and smoothies.

"The guys that are doing (re-enactments) spend a lot of time and money in rehearsing this," said Becker. "To say we are going to shut down the street after one hour, it's not worth their time and effort."

"It puts a dent in business. It's happened before. It's just too long, the parking is already pretty tight," said Laia St. Arnold of Country Charm, which is located in the proposed closure area. "We've never had one go that long. It's usually been (closed) until 1 or 2 p.m."

Graham said restaurant owners expressed concerns because the event takes place the same day singer India.Arie will perform at the Britt Festival.

Jeff Levin of Maclevins delicatessen expects to fill his restaurant throughout the parade day, but doesn't want to see vendors selling the same type of items that local merchants feature.

"I don't remember in the past having a parade on a Britt night," said Tyler Hoevet, manager of the Bella Union, which lies inside the proposed closure area. "You never know how business will be affected if people can't find a parking spot."

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at

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