It has been 25 years since the first Timber Trucker’s Light Parade and, according to organizers, they are still rolling along.
The first parade was held in John Day in 1993. It was the brainchild of Donald R. “D.R” Johnson, who operated several lumber mills in the area. He wanted a way to support the timber industry, its employees and their families, and their contributions to Oregon, while celebrating the Christmas holiday season.
When D.R. Johnson moved his company to Riddle the following year he decided to continue the parade, demonstrating family pride and community involvement. The parade would later merge with the Myrtle Creek Winter Festival. Together, the events are held each year on the second Saturday in December.
“The parade is near and dear to me, as my uncle started it and passed away in 2010,” said Jeff Johnson, D.R. Johnson’s nephew and the parade coordinator since the event’s conception. “It’s something I think D.R. would want to continue forever and ever.”
The yearly celebration has evolved into a time to bring families and communities together. Jeff Johnson said the event is a family tradition — one that is very rewarding.
“You can’t describe the feeling when you see all the people lining the streets and the impact it makes for people to forget the stresses and enjoy a nice holiday evening with their friends and family,” he said.
Visitors can gather in downtown Myrtle Creek for free food and drink and to enjoy the shops, the city Christmas tree and a live nativity scene. It is common to see people burning bonfires and cheering on drivers who throw candy into the crowd. The parade takes about 90 minutes to proceed from the starting point at the D.R. Johnson lumberyard in Riddle to downtown Myrtle Creek.
According to the Myrtle Creek-Tri City Chamber of Commerce, as many as 15,000 people line up along the five mile parade route. An average of 45 participants are in the parade each year, some sporting between 40,000 to 50,000 string lights on one truck. When the vehicles arrive in the downtown Myrtle Creek area, they park along Main Street and some side streets for spectators to get a closer look, take photos and chat with drivers.
The Ledbetter family of Tri City has been coming to the event for years to enjoy the lights.
“We’ve been coming to the parade pretty much for as long as it’s been going,” Lilly Ledbetter said.
“It’s a tradition,” her 28-year-old daughter Katrina Ledbetter added. “We’ve maybe missed it one year since I was 4.”
To get their prime watching spot in the lot across from the Happy Donut in Tri City, they leave a vehicle in the afternoon before returning for the parade.
“It brings the community together,” Katrina Ledbetter said. “It’s a big get-together and it’s fun.”
Any street-legal motorized vehicle, including passenger vehicles, RV’s and motorcycles, may enter the parade for free, as long as it displays at least one string of working holiday lights. Participants will include several logging companies, long-time participants Douglas Forest Protection Agency, all the fire departments in the South County area, local churches and schools.
“Every year we will get one or two people from the Medford area,” said Teresa McCabe, who has helped organize the event every year. “For a couple of years there was a gentleman from up in the Washington area that would enter.”
To reward drivers for their involvement and dedication to the event, the evening ends with cash prizes in six categories, including a $500 top prize for “best of show.” Total prizes exceed $3,500 annually.
“What we have found a lot, especially after the shooting at UCC, is a lot of our prize winners, instead of taking the money, donate it. And they have been doing that a lot over the years,” McCabe said.
The 25th annual Timber Trucker’s Light Parade will be held Saturday, Dec. 8. Vehicles will leave the D.R. Johnson lumber mill promptly at 5:30 p.m.
Event organizers encourage all participants to pre-register, although it is not required. There is no entry fee. For more information, or to pre-register, call D.R. Johnson Lumber Co. at 541-874-2231.
“We really appreciate the participants, the work they put into it and the dedication they have to bring cheer to the area,” Jeff Johnson said.