Jenna Rae makes a point of taking her 2-year-old son Finn Frickey on a daily outdoor adventure of some kind.
On the late morning of Saturday, Sept. 28, she hit the jackpot in entertainment value by visiting the 37th annual Teddy Bear Parade in downtown Gresham.
"He's having a great time," Rae said of Finn, who marveled at the teddy bears and other whimsically themed attractions going by on Main Avenue. "We usually take him out for an activity every day. This is way better than just going to a park."
A two-year resident of Gresham, Rae and her family find the parade exemplifies what they like about the community's small-town feel and attitude.
"We have a great time down here," she said. "It's just so easy going. It's a nice pace for us. Everything's clean and safe and (Finn) can roam around and you don't have to monitor him all the time."
With cooler than usual early fall temperatures and a threat of rain that never materialized, the parade filled the streets with exuberant smiles. Organized by the Soroptimist International of Gresham, the beloved community event attracted thousands to the sidewalks along Main Avenue and adjacent streets to take in a wide variety of decorated floats, vehicles, school marching bands and cuddly bears of all shapes and sizes.
This year's parade attracted close to 100 entries and around 2,000 participants, largely comprising local school districts, law enforcement and fire departments, elected officials, nonprofit organizations and businesses.
Rick and Stevie Dwyer scoped out a spot on a less-traveled stretch of Fifth Street near Hood Avenue to watch with their grown daughter and three grandchildren. They love the spirit of the yearly event.
"It's got that small-town feel," Stevie said. "We know people in the parade and we like to help promote events that have a strong community spirit."
They're also strategic about selecting a place to watch.
"We like to find a spot away from the center of town," Rick Dwyer said, "so people in the parade have someone at the end and they're not walking down the street by themselves."
The parade's 17 sponsors fund Gresham Soroptimist programs including scholarships awarded to women returning to work as heads of household, SAVE: Soroptimists Against Violent Environments, FreeTheGirls.org, and Be Strong, Be Safe.
Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis, who watched the parade from the front of his Bocelli's Ristorante on Main Avenue after completing his duties manning the lead float, marveled at the joyous scene before him.
"Just look at it," he said, gesturing toward the people gathered on the sidewalk. "This is America at its best. It's beautiful. Main street is packed with kids from every Zip code, every race and every religion you can think of. It's what Gresham is all about."
This year's parade sponsors include The Outlook, the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce, Weston Kia, Mt. Hood Community College, Riverview Community Bank, Pediatric Therapy Services, Powell Valley Assisted Living and Memory Care, Warren Allen, Clackamas County, Edward Jones, All About Automotive, Gresham Animal Hospital, the East Hill Church Family, The Gresham Sanitary Service, MetroEast Community Media and Henningsen Cold Storage Co.
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