CENTRAL POINT — Independence Day parades, scattered across America, provide a collective experience in diverse surroundings.
Cities and hamlets take time to remember and revel, celebrating the Red, White and Blue, and the cause of freedom declared 237 years ago.
Emilio Chavez has made a habit of joining the thousands attending the Fourth of July parades in Jackson County's third-largest city for the past 10 years.
"Independence Day gives us a chance to celebrate freedom in America," said Chavez, who became a naturalized citizen in 1994. "I see a passion for freedom and the love we have for America."
Chavez, who teaches Spanish at Cascade Christian High School, first brought his own children and now he sees many of his former students both in the parade and along the Pine Street route.
"It's like a family reunion," Chavez said.
Led by grand marshal Frank Hernandez, the parade drew cheers from a crowd of between 17,000 and 20,000, said Police Lt. Jeff Britton, part of patrol contingent that has worked the parade on bicycles since 2004.
Gathering with community members is an appropriate way to celebrate the nation's birthday, said Ted Josalle of Medford.
"I appreciate the patriotism," he said.
Kathy Thomas has been to the Central Point celebration off and on since moving to town in 1999, when she brought her now grown sons.
One sure sign of Central Point parade-goers taking their parade seriously is what occurs on July 3, she said.
"I couldn't believe how many chairs were on the street," Thomas said. "The whole street was lined by noon."
Thomas is admittedly a horse person, having ridden one during coastal Independence Day festivities in her youth at Manzanita.
"We tried the Eagle Point parade," she said. "It was mostly tractors and lawn mowers."
Even in Central Point there are fewer horses touring the parade route, much to George Juveland's chagrin.
"There used to be a lot more horses, but there were only four in the entire parade last year," he said.
Juveland has shown up for parades and other downtown events on the town's main drag for more than 70 years.
"A lot of people have moved to Central Point since I was a kid," said Juveland, who recalls the days when the parade route was unpaved.
He remembers when automobiles were the anomaly in Independence Day parades,
Richard McCann, who ran McCann's Paint and Body Shop, started coming to the parade in the early 1970s. He used to drive his '32 Ford in the event, but curbed his car a few years ago.
"They changed the rules," McCann said. "We threw candy to the kids, but they put the kabosh to that and it just wasn't fun any more."
Over the years, he said, the parade has drifted from its roots.
"It's more commercialized than patriotic," McCann said. "The radio stations go through playing their songs and I don't got for that type of stuff."
Jim DeKoekkoek is an avid GeoGuessr player, who has grown in his appreciation for his homeland by looking at street view photos from around the globe.
"We take the sidewalks and all those little things for granted," DeKoekkoek said. "I appreciate seeing the military people who have fought in the war. To see those vets is special, they know what it's all about."
Not far down the street, Jon Hanson from Clinton, Utah, had a similar notion.
"When you're in a smaller town, you sense the Americana," Hanson said. "I love the military aspect because I'm retired from the Air Force. You see the people celebrating the country a spirit of camaraderie."
Last year, Hanson's mother-in-law Robin Dickson, CEO for the local Dogs for Deaf agency, rode in the grand marshal. Thursday, she was on the sidelines, but her spirit was front-and-center.
"There's no doubt about it," Dickson said. "This is the greatest country on earth. I'm tired of our country getting trashed all the time. This is the one day of the year you don't hear it."