By BRIAN BULLOCK
The 63rd Azalea Festival Parade Saturday morning was decked out in its best and brightest red, white and blue and was visited by some large crowds.
"Crowds were and I spoke to many people over the weekend who have been to many Azalea Festivals I think larger," said Les Cohen, executive director of the Brookings-Harbor Chamber of Commerce, sponsors of the annual gathering.
Residents and visitors lined Chetco Avenue from Easy Street on the north end of town to Oak Street on the south to enjoy the floats, bands, classic cars and to wave at passing dignitaries. Children spent much of the morning scrambling for candy thrown from the floats.
The patriotic display started with the U.S. Coast Guard color guard. The Brookings Fire and Police departments and the Harbor Fire Department flew American flags of remembrance of their comrades lost on Sept. 11.
The Brookings City Council, including Mayor Bob Hagbom, rode atop the city's newest fire truck, an Emergency-One Typhoon it received the week prior to the parade.
Likewise, the Harbor Fire Department's newest recruit, a Western States tanker truck was adorned in red, white and blue honoring New York firefighters.
Music was provided by the Azalea Middle School, Brookings-Harbor High School and Phoenix High School marching bands. The Eugene Highlanders Pipe Band also provided its unique sounds.
Likewise, the street fair and crafts show experienced some of its largest crowds of recent years, said Cohen.
"Vendors at the street fair, many of whom have been to the festival for about the last 10 years, thought the crowds were very good," Cohen said. "The park program was better. Of course, it was a beautiful day."
The festival featured a few more events this year. Cohen said businesses can jump on the Azalea Festival band wagon just by putting an event on the schedule.
The Candle Garden, at the Port of Brookings Harbor, held free demonstrations on hand-carved candles. It was a new event for the festival.
"What's happening is more businesses are taking advantage of the Azalea Festival. That's super. We love it," Cohen said. "Part of the reason we do it is to bring more business to town."
In addition to the Candle Garden, the Fiber Arts Festival is just a couple of years old and is already very popular, he said.
"One woman I talked to said she took her bunny up there to be sheared. She wanted something weaved out of (its fur)," he said.
With events ranging from the Brookings Airport to the port to Chetco Valley Historical Museum to Azalea Park, the festival is truly a community event, Cohen said.
"The more we can spread it out the better," Cohen said. "We tell the businesses We'll get (the people) here. It's up to you to get them into your doorway'."
Chamber Director Don Tilton staged the parade, the festival's biggest event. It led up to the Azalea Park Program, where awards were presented to parade winners. Grand Marshal Frenchy Arrell, Azalea Festival Queen Iris Wraith and her court, and Pioneer Citizens Ted and Doris Freeman were all honored during the event.
"It's always a cooperative effort of a bunch of different groups who come together to put on the festival. It's always a community effort," Cohen said.
Despite deteriorating weather following a very nice Saturday, the festival was a popular success, he said.
"It was a great boost to the community. It's a great small town event," Cohen said.