Volunteers put the Eugene in EC
by Deanna Uutela
Lane County residents courageously sit through long months of rain and cold because they know once summer arrives, Eugene will awaken with a fervor and desire to rejoice the sun. The Eugene Celebration is the city’s chance to create memories that will last all winter long. And for regular volunteers at the EC, it is a time to escape, connect and give back.
“Volunteering is a way to give back to the community that has provided me with many options for a good life in Oregon,” says parade and KidZone volunteer Chieko Tomasulo.
This is Tomasulo’s fifth year volunteering at the celebration, and in the past she has also volunteered as a literacy tutor in an adult program, at the Newport Wine & Seafood Festival and for the Cottage Grove “Wheels Around Town” program. She isn’t the only one making good use of her free time. Jeanette Cane calls herself an “event junky,” and, like Tomasulo, volunteers for several events around town, including the EC for 10 years. “What else would I do with my free time?” asks Cane.
Dale Berg has volunteered at the EC for more than 15 years, along with being a volunteer fire fighter, volunteer for the Coast Guard and a long list of other deserving organizations. “I love to be where people are and be involved in the community,” Berg says.
What makes volunteering at the Eugene Celebration so special? The volunteers, of course, say the other people. Roberta Morgan is a co-chair for the Parade Committee and loves the morning of the parade. “Watching the entrants come together from just a bunch of barely awake people to a finished product by the time the parade starts is so much fun,” Morgan says. “I also get a big hoot out of all the kids in the parade. They love being in a parade and waving at people.”
Jeanette Cane remembers some of the more “interesting” things she has seen in the parade. “I have seen folks dress up their guinea pigs, llamas and rats,” recalls Cane. “Then there was a guy in a pink tutu, a Viking helmet and cowboy boots.”
But it is the S.L.U.G. Queen Contest that sticks out in most volunteers’ minds. Dale Berg has fun seeing people who are normally reserved come out of their shells and morph into the role of a queen.
In the midst of an election year, politics are on many people’s minds. Roberta Morgan remembers the tough decisions the committees had to make the year of 9/11. “We agonized about whether to go on with the event, whether to pull the plug on the parade, but we made the final decision to go ahead with it,” recalls Morgan. “It was very moving how many of the participants altered their plans to include a tribute to the fallen. The celebration as a whole probably did not do as well that year, but the outpouring for the parade and participants was really touching.”
Daring to hope and dream embodies this year’s theme: “I Dream of Eugenie.” Volunteers jokes about what the theme means to them. For Cane, the theme conjures up thoughts of beautiful shoes. “Christian Louboutin came out with their fall collections and have a pair of black platform shoes called ‘Eugenie.’ What a perfect name for the celebration and an excuse to get a new pair of shoes. They are a mere $1,895,” Cane says, with a wink.
The theme takes Tomasulo back to the classic television show I Dream of Jeannie. “This year’s theme will lend itself to many creative ideas for costumes and decorations as it hearkens back to the fantasy environment of the TV series,” Tomasulo says. “I will definitely bring my camera to record some of the memorable outfits that will abound.”
With uncertainty over the fate of downtown, many dream of what will become of the setting of Eugene’s yearly bash. “Downtown is not the liveliest part of our community, but it has the potential to be,” says Parade Committee member Arthur Donaghey. “The EC brings downtown Eugene to life for one weekend every year. It brings our whole community together for fun and frivolity.”
Tomasulo says that the EC reflects the spectrum of people and lifestyles that make Eugene unique. “The Health & Wellness Corridor highlights the strong commitment this community has towards an awareness of personal levels of fitness, both physically and mentally. The Pet Parade allows animal lovers their moment in the sun, and the Main Parade speaks for itself with its colorful participants and the varied floats and marching groups,” Tomasulo says.
Dale Berg sums up the spirit of the EC: “It represents all parts and life that make up Eugene. You will see a wide range of folks, from the hippies to the conservative types, and you will find them all at the EC.”
Eugene Celebration 2008
It’s That Slime Again! New S.L.U.G. Queen wins in a close one
Event Junkies Volunteers put the Eugene in EC
Laugh, Cry, Be Inspired Film Festival at DIVA
Living La Vida Local A three-day whirlwind of music and food
PDX @ the EC Big city music on small town stages
Celebrate Downtown at the EC Merchants anticipate excitement, if not more sales
The Official Eugene Celebration Site Schedule, Map, Directions and more