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Ashland celebrates an old-fashioned Fourth of July

An estimated 20,000 people attended Ashland’s Fourth of July events Monday, rallying around the theme “Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Lithia Park.”

The day began with the 40th annual Ashland Parks and Recreation Fourth of July run. There were 313 entries in the 10k and 267 entries in the two-mile race. The top three winners of the two-miler were Alex Franklin, Christian Hill and Arlo Davis, all from Ashland. The winners of the two-mile race receive free admission into either of next year’s races. The male winners of the 10k were Jorge Gil-Juarez, first place from Morehead, Kentucky; EJ Holland, second from Ashland; and Chris Mayer, third from Middlefield, Connecticut.

Gil-Juarez, originally from Phoenix, began running in high school and now competes for the track and cross country teams at Morehead State University in Kentucky.

“This is the only time during the year I get to come home,” said Gil-Juarez. “It’s always great competing back home.”

The female winners for the 10k were Melissa Penwell, first place from Rocklin, California; Marissa Dobry, second from Ashland; and Elaina Biechler, third from Dubuque, Iowa. Results can be found at https://goo.gl/3x8DAh. The races served as a fundraiser for Ashland and Phoenix high schools' cross-country teams.

The old-fashioned Ashland Fourth of July parade had more than 80 entries this year, according to Dana Preston, membership development manager for the Ashland Chamber of Commerce. The Ashland parade may be the most anticipated event of the annual holiday celebration. Some parade watchers claim their viewing spaces the day prior with chalk outlines, chairs, tarps, tape and even sofas. There weren’t many floats, but the kids in bee wings handing out saltwater taffy and the dogs dressed in tutus made up for any lacking pizazz, with the Fourth of July parade giving the community a chance to show its appreciation for local organizations and dignitaries.

Four representatives from Ashland parks and recreation staff assisted with the role of grand marshal, playing on the Lithia Park theme. The representatives were Mike Gardiner, Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission chairman; Marge Bernard, Ashland Parks Foundation vice-chair; Ashland Parks and Recreation Director Michael Black; and Tom Foster, founder of the Lithia Park Nature Walk Program. These APRC members represent 100 years’ worth of volunteering and staff service.

An Ashland resident since 1999, Patt Herdklotz and her family have attended the parade every year since moving to the city.

“We cheer for everyone because we have friends amongst the whole community,” said Herdklotz. “Plus it’s always fun to end with a little Samba dancing.”

This year, a car entry was dedicated to Laura “Loreta” Rangel Villaseñor, a mural artist from Ashland’s sister-city, Guanajuato, Mexico. The mural on the back wall of Sesame Asian Kitchen Restaurant is an entranceway to Calle Guanajuato and was completed last week.

In honor of “Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Lithia Park,” a time capsule was buried near the Butler Band Shell. The contents of the time capsule will be opened in 50 years, in 2066.

Gardiner presided over the burial of the time capsule with a small reminder of Lithia Park history. The park was established in 1916 by John McLaren, designer of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. The original entrance to the park was near the band shell, which is why the time capsule was buried there. Roughly 50,000 people attended the dedication that Fourth of July 100 years ago, Gardiner noted.

Bruce Dickens, parks superintendent, Jeffrey McFarland, open space and parks supervisor, and Keith McFarland, a parks department alumnus, lowered the capsule into the ground while Gardiner spoke. They were joined by Rob Parks and Don Merrill, park technicians, as well as a few other members of the parks commission to take turns burying the capsule.

“This park has been called the crown jewel of Ashland,” said Gardiner. “We believe we have what it takes to provide Ashland with 100 more years of Lithia Park.”

Contact Tidings intern Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@dailytidings.com.