July 4 show to return

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

Following Strawberry Festival Chairperson Cindy Kerby’s announcement that the group would no longer be able to support the July 4 Star-Spangled Celebration, Country Financial insurance agent Jamie Eriksen has agreed to take the helm.
Kerby made the announcement during the March 15 Parks, Trees and Trails Advisory Committee meeting, where she accepted a seat on the committee. She said the festival board decided to trim the celebration because it runs too close to the historic June event and there wasn’t enough manpower for the latter.
The festival board had first approached the city to gauge another entity’s interest in continuing the event. Discussion ensued about some kind of timber carnival in conjunction with the Star-Spangled Celebration, but, according to Kerby, no one was available to oversee it.
“It is something that is going to go away unless somebody takes it on,” she told the committee.
Enter Eriksen, who explained that a client approached her with the news and asked her to take over, knowing she wanted to do something with local impact. After discussing the matter with her team, Eriksen decided to “go for it,” calling it an important tradition.
“Country [Financial]’s motto is ‘Enriching the lives in the communities we serve,’ so everything I do in the community, it boils back to that,” she said. “Am I enriching the lives in the communities I serve?
“When I volunteer at something or sponsor something, what is coming out of it? Are we really enriching the lives in the community? That’s what we base a lot of our decisions on.”
The Star Spangled Celebration began in 2004 and was hosted by the Lebanon Community Foundation until 2019, when the organization left the event due to a variety of contributing factors, including a lack of available volunteers.
The Lebanon Strawberry Festival Board stepped in, but the following year’s COVID-19 pandemic curtailed festivities to a fireworks show over Cheadle Lake viewable from a side street.
“We’ve done the fireworks for a couple years just to have fireworks for Lebanon,” Kerby said. “It was something the community really wanted, so we just did it.”
Eriksen is currently forming a nonprofit for what will now be called Lebanon’s Fourth of July Celebration. Previously operated by a nonprofit (Lebanon Community Foundation and Strawberry Festival), the event will now be its own.
“This is an important enough celebration that it should be its own entity so that a board is created and everything is in place,” she explained.
According to Kerby, the cost to shoot fireworks at the Strawberry Festival was about $15,000.
For the original Star-Spangled Celebration, the Lebanon Community Foundation put in about $25,000 a year for both the fireworks and festivities at Cheadle Lake Park. Kerby also noted that, since COVID-19, the fireworks company has limited its number of shows.
The festival board was able to reserve a date with the firm for this year in case someone stepped in to host a Fourth of July event.
“Because I’ve worked with them and I supported them through COVID – as the Strawberry Festival, we continued to do the fireworks and a lot of places didn’t – they are very willing to work with us and do whatever we need for Lebanon,” Kerby said.
Eriksen determined that $20,000 is needed for this year’s fireworks display, but the City of Lebanon, ENTEK, Gillott Home Team – Keller Williams Realty Mid-Willamette and Schmizza Public House have already committed $8,000 in sponsorships.
After speaking with city and public city officials, she also determined that the best and safest option is to open Cheadle Lake Park for parking. However, she’ll need volunteers to make that happen.
“The vision for the future is to open it back up to a day event, like your backyard barbecue family picnic and fireworks,” she said.
“I really believe if Lebanon wants to continue to have this celebration, they will step up. I’m very optimistic and I have a lot of hope for Lebanon; there’s a lot of good people here.”
For more information, to offer funding or to volunteer, contact Eriksen at (541) 451-0137 or [email protected].