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A welcome sight for returnees

Talent artisans, residents to create cards for those coming back to town after Almeda fire

Welcome cards for Almeda fire victims returning to a new transitional housing site in Talent will be put together at a free workshop by nonprofit Talent Maker City, which will also help townsfolk decorate their bikes for an annual community lighted holiday ride with a second workshop.

Up to 20 people can participate in the card-making session set for 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 8, at the organization’s workshop, 304 E. Main St.

On Sunday, Dec. 12, the bike lighting session will be held at the same place from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Talent City Council approved financial support for both events.

Displaced residents have just begun moving into the 53-unit Gateway Project at Highway 99 and West Valley View Road on Talent Urban Renewal Agency land.

The goal of the agency, which collaborated with the Phoenix-Talent School District, is to bring back school families that left the community due to the Almeda fire. Rogue Retreat is managing the development, which features 37-foot-long trailers supplied by the state.

The idea for the welcome back cards arose during a meeting between Talent Maker City and the Talent Public Arts Committee when they were discussing placement of murals on a fence that surrounds the Gateway site.

“That kind of organically sprung out of the meeting we were having right before we put up the murals,” said Alli French, program director with Maker City. “We were just brainstorming ideas and thoughts about how to properly welcome families back into the community. It seemed like a sweet idea.”

Last spring the committee sponsored a contest to create murals for the site. Maker City then offered classes in which students transferred the designs onto 4-by-6-foot panels. Plans for delivering the cards are under development.

Screen-printed and hand-painted cards will be created at the workshop. Artist Sunny Lindley of Ashland, who teaches classes at Maker City, will be on hand to help attendees learn simple screen printing. The Pubic Arts Committee will assist.

“We will be screen printing some of the cards, but mostly it’s hand painting them with water color and other media,” said French. Personal notes of comfort and support will be included on the cards.

The bike ride has become an event without a committee, said French. She and friends Christie Lawson, Emily Minah and Heather Ayers-Flood originated the ride seven years ago when they decorated their bikes and rode around, knocking on doors to compliment families for outstanding displays.

The next year they made awards to hand out to top displays. One home, next to Town Hall on Main Street, proudly displays the awards it has won each year for what is always a stunning display, said French.

The event has continued to grow, but this will be the first year of Maker City involvement. Last year an estimated 100 people took part in the ride, perhaps eager to get outside during COVID restrictions, said French.

Riders can gather in the Maker City parking lot, where battery-powered sting lights will be provided. Cyclists are also encouraged to bring other holiday décor to attach. Cookies and hot chocolate will be available. There is no charge for the workshop. Canned food collection barrels will be out to aid the Talent Food Bank.

Ian Bagshaw’s Flywheel Solutions bike shop will bring its mobile bike repair van to the event, and company staff will be on hand to offer assistance.

There’s no formal parade route, with participants encouraged to ride their decorated bikes around town to check out the displays. Riders are urged to wear helmets and bright or reflective clothing and to obey road rules.

At 8 p.m. riders will gather at the roundabout to do a traditional lap of the circle. Downtown businesses Art Bop Beer Co., The Grotto and the Pump House are offering $1 off purchases for those with lighted bikes.

City Council approved spending up to $1,300 for the two events at its Nov. 17 meeting. The city had originally budgeted $10,000 to support the annual Harvest Festival, which wasn’t held. That money was redesignated for an Almeda fire commemorative event Sept. 11 and 12, but that got canceled also due to the COVID delta virus surge. Council then decided to use the money to support other community events.

“Both of them are great. It’s such a beautiful idea for the welcome home cards,” said Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood. She thanked Talent Maker City for always keeping the community at heart.

Information about registration for the card-making workshop will be placed on the Maker City website, talentmakercity.org, and its Facebook page. Masks will be required.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.