by Bryan Beban and Kenny Weigandt
On Sunday, Sept. 29, Willamalane Park and Recreation District marked 75 years to the day of being chartered as the state of Oregon’s very first special district with a free community celebration fit for such an occasion. More than 6,500 area patrons descended on Willamalane Park for live music, amusement park rides (including a full-size Ferris wheel and a massive 100-foot-long, 45-foot-high super slide), as well as an autograph appearance by WNBA star and local icon, Mercedes Russell.
The event also paid homage to a traditional Springfield favorite, Broiler Festival, which was the area’s signature summer event lasting more than four decades beginning in 1956. Willamalane partnered with the local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3965 to roast more than 1,000 chicken halves and pair them with delicious side dishes, including homemade baked beans, potato salad, and corn on the cob. The celebration also included a piece of the traditional Timberama from the Broiler Festival era. Local firm Oregon Axe provided an axe-throwing venue for patrons to relive the festival’s golden days.
The two highlights of the day were the induction of the inaugural class of the Willamalane Hall of Fame and the unveiling of a massive community mural on the side of the Willamalane Park Swim Center.
Also honored at the event were three past superintendents whose leadership spanned six decades and saw the district through great change, expansion, and improvements: Gary Walker (1969–82), Daniel Plaza (1982–2000), and Bob Keefer (2000–16). Others recognized at the celebration included members of the Lively family for their contributions to the district including Lively Park and the former Lively Park Swim Center, now known as Splash! at Lively Park; Richard M. Satre, principal of the Schirmer Satre Group, for his design of Splash! at Lively Park; and Bob Reed for his dedication and contributions to the tennis program at Willamalane.
To ensure that this celebration would leave a lasting mark on the community, Willamalane partnered with PacificSource Health Plans and the Springfield Arts Commission to produce a 100-x-35-foot mural that symbolizes the partnership of Willamalane and the amazing people of Springfield.
The mural was designed and painted by local artist Bayne Gardner. Willamalane recruited Gardner for the project not only because he is an incredibly talented and involved member of the Springfield/Eugene community, but also because he has worked with the community to create unique engagement experiences with his art.
That second point was vital because the goal of this mural was to provide the opportunity for anyone who attended the event to leave their personal mark on the wall. This way, the mural would serve as a beautiful piece of art and a time capsule that everyone in Springfield can revisit for years to come.
At the event, Willamalane proudly unveiled the mural and opened up the bottom section of it for anyone and everyone to make their mark. It was an incredible day and thanks to Bayne, a team of Willamalane employees who coordinated the project, and the great people of Springfield. This mural will serve as a lasting thank you gift to the community.