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Breathless: Keeping up with Homer – Community rallies to retain Homer Days on its traditional first weekend in August

By Brenna WiegandAn illustration from \"The Country Boy\" written and illustrated by Homer Davenport.

It is with hope – and caution – that all concerned attempt to join forces to keep Homer Davenport Days alive and well on its traditional weekend this year.

Representatives for the Homer Davenport Days Board of Directors admit they have made mistakes; namely, failing to seek more public input prior to its October announcement that Homer Days would be moved from its historic August weekend to mid-July. The news caused chagrin among many non-profit and charitable groups who hold their primary fundraisers that first weekend of August, as well as disquiet on the part of many individuals.

Another movement sprang into place by those who wanted to make sure there was a festival – of some sort – the first weekend of August. The Silverton Lions Club, who applied for use of the park that weekend at the news of the date change, knew that trying to conduct a festival themselves would negate any profit they hoped to gain for their contributions toward the sight and hearing impaired.

Gus Frederick was one of those keen on keeping the first weekend in August of festival proportions – and that the weekend, in concert with the efforts of the likes of SHS Alumni Association, Flywheels Car Club, and Silverton Runners Club be mutually beneficial. At various times Frederick has spent years on the HDD board and in 2006 published a volume of Homer Davenport cartoons.

He has been quite vocal – including in local newspapers – about his opinion that, over the last few years, the HDD board “seems to have lost its focus”; that it could stand a “rebooting” and had a ready idea that the alternate festival take on a regional farmers’ market theme.

But the best of both worlds, he maintained, would be for the two groups to work together for the good of the community while embracing some new ideas.

A couple of board members stepped down after the date change, and the group started to wonder whether the decision to move the date was really the best thing for HDD – and the community.

Homer Davenport Days meeting
Wednesday, March 9, 7 p.m.
Silverton City Council Chambers,
421 S. Water St.
Community meeting; all welcome
The Homer Davenport Days board
would like to unite those interested
in helping with Homer Days
Homer Davenport Days Board of Directors
contacts: Rayann Alger, 503-858-0600;
Cate Tennyson, 503-510-2253;
www.davenportdays.comContacts at large:
Gus Frederick, 503-779-9378;
Kyle Palmer, 503-932-8550

Then the Homer board discovered that the city would not support two festivals and two parades in so short a span. As the groups rubbed elbows, dissension and confusion grew to the point that Silverton City Manager Bryan Cosgrove called a meeting in late January convening HDD board members; traditional date advocates; city leaders and representatives from service organizations who let the HDD board know what they thought of their actions. Hitzemann said she left feeling blindsided and said Cosgrove had given the board a two-week deadline in which to decide: July or August?

Neither, it seemed. Two and a half weeks later, on Feb. 15, the Homer Days board publicly conveyed that they were going to sit out 2011. They said they needed to “reshape and rethink the festival” with the promise of a “strong return of Homer Davenport Days in July 2012.”

Now the other group kicked it into high gear. Kyle Palmer and Gus Frederick started getting the word out that the new festival “will look (structurally) a lot like HDD, with a significant exception being the change from an arts and crafts fair to a regional farmer’s market approach,” said Palmer. He said Richard Carlson and Darin Rybloom, former Homer board leaders from years ago, were ready to assume leadership roles and that the YMCA had volunteered to take charge of the parade.This 1910 photo depicts a festival contemporary with Homer Davenport\'s time, the Silverton Fruit Show. Some festival advocates suggest it\'s time to return to an agrarian theme.

Meanwhile and from other quarters, the Homer board began receiving the support it had lacked in recent years. New volunteers and supporters emerged, including Silverton dentist Dr. Michael Kim, who pledged both time and monetary support in the form of sponsoring the parade.

“Now the community is standing up and saying ‘We want to help,’” Hitzemann said, “and not just people within Silverton city limits.”

Hitzemann, a resident of Scotts Mills, says people have attempted to denigrate the integrity of the board simply because not all live in Silverton.

“You don’t have to live within city limits to have a passion for Homer and to be a part of it,” she said. “After all, Homer didn’t live in town.”

Overwhelmed by the uprising of support – “it’s what we’ve always wanted” – Hitzemann took the advice of friend and former board member Cate Tennyson. Two days on the heels of cancelling that year’s festival, the board announced it was taking back the first weekend in August for 2011. …But by now was it theirs to take?

“It was my understanding that the August weekend was locked up when they had the meeting in January; that they were not a part of it,” noted Ken Hector, former Silverton mayor. “I have been pleased that there are responsible, community-minded people who have been involved in Homer for many years willing to commit to making a festival happen in August. Now we need to sort this thing out and see where it goes from here.”

The Lions Club watched the changing scene with apprehension.

“We just want to have our little breakfast,” Steve Potter said. “If we can see that there are people willing to work together and make this thing happen, we’ll be happy to turn it over to them.”

Among those consulted, all expressed interest in working together for the good of the community.

Troubling the waters, however, were hurt feelings, dissatisfaction – even animosity – among the various players.

Everyone was encouraged to hear on Feb. 22 that the HDD board was reaching out through a public meeting on March 9 and was working on greater communication, transparency and receptiveness through the Homer Davenport Days’ website; Facebook and Twitter accounts and a Yahoo group that enables the group to send out mass e-mails.

Hitzemann said the board is preparing to bring on some new members.

Palmer was delighted at this statement.

“An expanded board that includes representatives from some or all of the stakeholders in a HDD format is the best solution for the community,” he said.

Frederick wondered how the board would conduct this expansion. Sheldon Traver, former public relations for the Homer Davenport Days board, noted that the current board members are the ones who vote in new members.

“We need to move forward and do it in a way that’s more characteristic of Silverton,” said Jeff DeSantis, co-owner of Seven Brides Brewing. “It needs to be a more service group oriented event with a broader group of leaders interested in making Homer Days for Silverton, of Silverton and by Silverton.”

The Silverton Lions Club claims the events of past months have reflected poorly on theirs and other organizations, the city and the whole community, according to Potter.

“We provide a lot of glasses and hearing aids to people in the community who wouldn’t be able to afford them otherwise,” Heidi Ostrom of the Lions said. “We are pleased to hear that there may be a positive outcome to all of this confusion and hope all the groups will be able to work together to create a win-win situation.”

“It sounds to me like people are all working together to pull off a good festival and that’s indicative of the community,” city manager Cosgrove said. “The people of Silverton don’t like to see traditions die.”

“Saying we were going to cancel it was a negative thing,” Cate Tennyson said. “But it was also a catalyst for change.”

Hitzemann said she wants the meeting to be “positive” – a place for answering questions; making suggestions and offering ways that people can apply their talents toward making the
2011 Davenport Days the best yet.

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