Progressive politics, inclusive approaches and lighthearted fun blended with a century of traditions in downtown Ashland.

Under the theme "Together we sing," an estimated 20,000 people of all walks, along with local political groups and apolitical community organizations enjoyed a holiday of freedom and camaraderie Tuesday at Ashland's Old-Fashioned 4th of July Celebration.

Instead of a traditional parade grand marshal, all active military and retired veterans were invited to march together according to Kelsey Frantz, Projects and Special Events Coordinator for Ashland Chamber of Commerce. She called seeing the community's warm response a "tears to your eyes" moment.

"It was amazing to see how the community reacted to our service men and women," Frantz said.

Frantz said there were "a lot of community perspectives" at the parade, which had about 85 entries and averages 20,000 people. Though politics played a more prominent role this year, parade participants largely kept their messages uplifting. Oregon District 2 Indivisible, for example, had a banner that read "Country before party."

Teresa Safay of Ashland with Indivisible said she hoped their message would help heal a divide along political party lines while continuing its focus on resisting the president. Safay estimated the number of Indivisible marchers at about 150.

Indivisible marchers were greeted to a roar of applause near Lithia Way during the parade. Peggy Vernier of Medford, one of the marchers, said she liked the positive reaction from the crowd, particularly when they sang songs such as Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land."

"Resistance isn't always fun, but it's nice to have fun," Vernier said.

Safay highlighted the group's new logo with red and blue lines intersecting, symbolizing that their grassroots organization consists of Democrats and Republicans. Though it skews progressive, Indivisible doesn't toe a party line, Safay said.

"Resisting Trump is not just a Democrat issue," Safay said after the parade. "We're stronger together." 

Wearing a mask from a cardboard cutout, Southern Oregon Climate Action Now member Liz Olson of Ashland caricatured Rep. Greg Walden over the Republican congressman's support of the Jordan Cove Pipeline. For Olson, Independence Day was about "the freedom to make a stand."

Actual political figures who marched included Sen. Ron Wyden and State Representative Pam Marsh, who dressed as Lady Liberty.

Civil liberties took a more prominent role this year, with an entire display at the parade in which about two dozen marchers wore sandwich boards with the covers of previously banned books. Southern Oregon University's float included a sign that said "Public Education: Conceived in Liberty."

Though politics had a strong theme during the parade, it was a carefree holiday for many of the thousands who celebrated from the sidewalk. 

Among the revelers was Marilyn Kovtunovich, who still had her 4th of July run number pinned to her shirt while she enjoyed an after-10K cup of coffee. She doesn't usually do the 4th of July run, but said it felt like the "fit thing to do" this year, and was proud she was first to complete the run in her age group.

"I've still got it," Kovtunovich said. "I'm not dead yet."

For Alaiya Aguilar of Ashland, the parade was an opportunity to get together with a friend and spend the day with her two children; however, she said she sees the "best of Ashland" the previous morning, when she watches the community drive through downtown reserving the spaces they'll sit for the parade. She said she likes seeing the community engaged in that simple way and the small moments that come with it, such as sharing her sidewalk chalk with a stranger at 9 o'clock in the morning.

"It's a real small town experience," Aguilar said. "I don't come from a small town."

— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.