Nights light up with holiday parades.
VENETA - How do you light a llama? And why would someone string bulbs on a bucket truck?
Thursday night, this community became the fifth local town with reason to know: It joined neighboring Junction City, Harrisburg, Monroe and Coburg in what's become a trademark small-town holiday tradition.
Like "chasing" bulbs on a string of holiday lights, the communities brighten their downtowns on successive nights with parades of lighted creatures, vehicles and farm implements.
What happened in Veneta on Thursday night will happen in Junction City tonight, Harrisburg on Saturday night, Coburg on Sunday night and Monroe on Dec. 11.
Think of it as "real-life Main Street meets Disney's Main Street Electrical Parade."
It's been 14 years since Junction City business owner Irma Mode got the idea to meld the theme park's after-dark spectacle with a typical small-town parade. Mode, then owner of the Black Bart Bed and Breakfast, pitched the idea to the local Chamber of Commerce. The result brings community members together at a time of year when weather and darkness tend to keep them apart, said Ryan Bowers, an insurance agency owner and chairman of this year's parade.
"Junction City is very tightknit, and we try to keep a lot of things going on here throughout the year," he said. "We try to keep our community involvement up as much as possible. We don't want to turn into a bedroom town."
Harrisburg and Coburg hopped on the parade bandwagon that first year, thanks to Bill Gabriel, now director of operations for Blachly-Lane Electric Cooperative. Then a manager for Pacific Power, he was a Chamber of Commerce member in all three towns.
"The idea was a natural for these communities, with all their large pieces of farming equipment and their big RV manufacturers," he said. "You put lights on a combine or a big RV or one of those tractors with tires taller than we are, and it transforms them."
Children especially love the sight, said Dick Langdon, manager of Harrisburg's Fisher Implement Co., which takes part every year.
"It's big, and its bright, and it makes a lot of noise," he said. "Kids like that."
Parade entrants - from businesses to families - also have fun. So much so that some participate in all the area parades.
The Fern Ridge Chamber of Commerce decided to get in on the act after member Patti Chappel, the owner of Secret House Winery, rode a lighted Emerald People's Utility District truck in several of the other towns' parades.
"I'm on the EPUD board of directors, so I got invited to ride in the bucket of the truck," she said. "I thought, `How come we don't have a parade in my community?' '
The Veneta parade culminated in the lighting of a community Christmas tree at the West Lane Shopping Center, and was a great event for the rapidly growing community, City Manager Ric Ingham said. The city has struggled to establish an annual event, eventually discontinuing such attempts as Fern Ridge Fun Days and a chili cook-off.
"Many of our new residents are young families," he said. "To create a better sense of community, we needed something both current and new residents could get excited about."
Ingham credited technological advances for making it easy for even individual residents to light up an entry and participate. Thursday's entrants ranged from power company bucket trucks to individual llamas.
So, how do you light a llama?
With tiny lights and a small battery pack, said Veneta parade director Joe Savage of Emerald People's Utility District.
Most of the big vehicles, by contrast, run gasoline generators to power their thousands of lights.
A frivolous waste of power? No way, Gabriel said.
"You see the faces on the kids, and you know it's worth it. A lot of them may never get to Disneyland. Good will and people having a good time: It's one of the best uses of power there is."
When: 7 tonight
Route: Begins at Sixth and Front streets; Sixth to Holly; Holly to Eighth; Eighth to Greenwood; Greenwood to Fifth; Fifth to Front Street
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Route: Begins at high school, Ninth and Moore streets; Moore to Territorial; Territorial across Highway 99 East to Second; Second to Smith; Smith to Ninth Street
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Route: Begins at Coburg and Coburg Bottom Loop roads; Coburg to Willamette; Willamette to Delaney; Delaney to Truck 'n' Travel parking lot, 32910 E. Pearl St.
Cost: Free; paradegoers encouraged to bring canned food for FOOD for Lane County
When: 7 p.m. Dec. 11
Route: Begins at Seventh and Ash streets; Ash to Highway 99; Highway 99 to Orchard; Orchard to Ninth; Ninth to Commercial Street
Judy Tanner of Veneta lounges in the Crazy Al's Tavern float Thursday while waiting for Veneta's holiday light parade to start.