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It happened at the Iris Festival

You never know what’s going to happen at the Keizer Iris Festival—or who might make a visit.

Four years ago presidential candidate Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, stopped at the festival grounds outside the Keizer Renaissance Inn. The day turned out to be one of the hottest festival days on record, but it did not deter the lucky few who waited (and waited) for the Obamas to emerge from the air conditioned bus to talk with the crowd and enjoy a hot dog and popcorn.

Barack Obama is still the only national politician to ever visit the festival. That can be attributed to the fact that Keizer sits on Interstate 5; he was passing by anyway, so why not stop by?

Other celebrities have graced the festival over the years. Remember when Tom Petty played guitar with a band one night in the Keizerfest tent?  Or last year when Journey drummer Deen Castronovo flew his rock and roll flag by playing with the band JKF? It is those moments that make the Iris Festival memorable.

It has been seen across the country what the economy has done to festivals large and small. Some have been canceled, others dramatically downsized. Here in Keizer the  Chamber of Commerce, an army of volunteers, dedicated citizens, and generous sponsors have kept the Iris Festival humming along, though not as in years recently passed.

Ten years ago, for example, Iris Festival Weekend was filled with the signature events: the Iris Parade, the Keizerfest tent and its musical acts, and of course the acres of blooming irises at the largest grower in the world, our own Schreiner’s Iris Gardens. The weekend was also filled with a myriad of community events that gave Keizerites lots of choices. There were shuffleboard or bingo tournaments; student dances, sake exhibitions, art festivals—even a quilters fair.

The organizers of the Keizer Iris Festival are to be congratulated for staging this major event in these tough economic times. It takes a lot of planning and organization to schedule musical acts, map out spaces for vendors, and execute one of the biggest parades in Oregon.

Keizer has one of the best known events in the state. We should never have a ho-hum attitude about the festival. It puts our city’s best foot forward. This is the best time of the year for other community organizations to bask in the light that shines on Keizer.

A club can hold a bingo tournament to raise funds; another club can hold the city’s biggest car wash for its fund raising. Being a sports town, it makes sense to us that there should a fun pitch-hit-run contests for kids, or a basketball contest. Any of these events can raise money for organizations and clubs during a time when residents are most focused on their community.

Those types of side events used to be called Independent Events of the Iris Festival. They were not organized by the Keizer Chamber of Commerce (which stages the festival as a fund raiser for itself), but were listed under the umbrella of the community’s biggest function.

Once the economy allows we should once again welcome independent events into the festival fold.