By editorial board • 

Festivals hold together what politics drive apart

The Monday after Sheridan Days, a festival that brings the community together in a spirit of fellowship, one of Sheridan’s younger residents learned how fragile that fellowship can be.

Sarai Weeks wanted only to provide free ice water and Kool Aid to people walking in the 90-degree heat to a rally at Southside Park next to Sheridan’s federal prison.

Some decided the best way to express their anger about undocumented immigrants was to stop their cars and take out their anger on a 12-year-old girl. One of them told her to go back where she came from.

She comes from Sheridan.

We all do, in our own way. We are all neighbors. We all share a community. Yet we live in a divisive age where cynical schemers find political advantage in pitting us against one another. It is easy in this climate to forget what binds us together and focus on what drives us apart.

Sheridan Days and the other community festivals of the summer are therefore no trivial matters. They remind us of what is truly important — celebrating together rather than yelling at one another.

It is noteworthy, indeed, that Sheridan Days took place in the shadow of a visit to the prison by members of Oregon’s congressional delegation. They went to visit 123 men who had sought asylum in the U.S. only to find themselves on the wrong side of President Trump’s hardline immigration policies.

While Sheridan families celebrated together, U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer held a press conference with his fellow congressional representatives and choked back tears regarding separated families. After the press conference adjourned, the West Valley’s rural character continued to be observed along Sheridan’s main street, with evening events featuring ice cream and live music.

That’s OK. The dichotomy may be stark, but that does nothing to diminish the importance of ice cream.

As a nation, divided we stand. We are reminded every time we read the news from Washington, D.C. We can’t escape it, especially when it comes as close as the Sheridan prison.

What we can do is celebrate the communities we share. During local festivals, news of the nation takes a back seat to local fun and warm, neighborly feelings.
Summer offers many opportunities to spend time with the better angels of our natures. This weekend features Carlton Fun Days and the McMinnville Lions’ annual Fly-in, Drive-in Breakfast. The summer lineup follows with McMinnville’s Turkey Rama, Yamhill’s Derby Days, Amity’s Pancake Breakfast, Willamina’s Old-Fashioned Fourth of July, Dayton’s Old Timers Festival and many more.

They are organized by volunteers meeting virtually year-round to embrace the challenges of planning events on a tight budget and increasingly wandering attention spans.

Pay attention. Celebrate. Have a cup of ice water without yelling at the child offering it to you. These are not frivolous events. They represent who we truly are as a people.


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