Hundreds brave bad weather to celebrate

By Dick Mason, The Observer September 06, 2013 11:13 am

Volunteer grillers Dave Girrard, left, and Bob Staab keep the hot dogs coming as a little, or a lot, of wind and rain didnít shorten the lines much at Thursday eveningís annual Celebrate La Grande event downtown. (Chris Baxter/The Observer)
Volunteer grillers Dave Girrard, left, and Bob Staab keep the hot dogs coming as a little, or a lot, of wind and rain didnít shorten the lines much at Thursday eveningís annual Celebrate La Grande event downtown. (Chris Baxter/The Observer)
 

Rain hits event for only second time in 18 years 

Strong winds sent unanchored materials flying at Celebrate La Grande Thursday but could not ground this community’s spirit. 

Between 500 and 600 people braved stiff winds and heavy rainfall to take part in a one-of-a-kind block party, the 18th annual edition of Celebrate La Grande on Thursday at Max Square. 

“These are true Oregonians, they are all diehards,’’ event co-chair Di Lyn Larsen-Hill said of those attending the event while the rain was falling.

The diehards Larsen-Hill mentioned enjoyed free hot dogs, ice cream, chips and soft drinks; live music and other entertainment, including Zumba dancers, and rides on an old fire truck provided by the La Grande Fire Department. 

Conditions were rough for the first hour of the three-hour event. First, the wind blew so hard people setting up the approximately 20 nonprofit booths were advised to pack up, advice everyone at the stations heeded.

“We did not want anyone to get hurt,” said Mary Koza, who along with Shaneen Bergette, served as the co-chairs of Celebrate La Grande’s booth stations.

Koza said she was concerned that people sitting at booths might be hit by items blown off their tables.

Heavy rainfall followed the stiff wind but did not deter the many who came to Celebrate La Grande determined to have a good time. The line to the food-serving tent was long throughout the evening, even in the worst of the weather.

“We thought we would stop serving once the line stopped, but it never did,” Larsen-Hill said. “Every time I looked up, it kept getting longer.”

About 700 hot dogs were consumed at the event, almost half of the hot dogs available. The unconsumed food will be donated to a local food bank today.

Mark Kalmbach of
La Grande said few things could top the meal he enjoyed and noted that the price was right.

“The basis of it is free food,” Kalmbach said with a smile.

Glenda Mielke and Toni Miles, teachers at Heidi Ho Christian Preschool and Kindergarten, said they came to offer greetings to their students, children who they see each year at Celebrate
La Grande. 

“It is fun to connect with our new students at the start of the year,” Miles said.

Mielke was not mystified why so many people braved the bad weather. She said people wanted to show their support of the community.

“We all love our town,” Mielke said.

Lynn Halliday said he was excited to attend Celebrate La Grande because of how it brings the community together.

“It is just a celebration for everybody,” he said.

Contact Dick Mason at 541-786-5386 or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Follow Dick on Twitter @lgoMason.