The Clatskanie Festival, which ran from August 2 through 4, just completed its fourth year.

The festival, hosted by the American Legion Auxiliary Louis Larsen Unit #68 and Piercing Arrow Private School, had the theme “Let the Light Shine.”

Festival events included a 5K Glow in the Dark Run, a nighttime movie, a community breakfast, a petting zoo, rock painting, a softball tournament, a cookie contest, free swimming, a cake walk, live music, an evening light parade, a glow-in-the-dark rock hunt, a lawn mower race, a Sunday community worship church service and a Make A Wish! Candle Ceremony.

Most events were held at Clatskanie City Park, although a few were held at various locations throughout the city, such as Nehalem Street for the parade, or Poysky Field for the lawn mower races.

Lori Sherman, President of the Clatskanie Festival, as well as Principal of Piercing Arrow Private School, said it costs about $7,000 to run the festival each year, made possible through sponsorships from local businesses. Sherman also said a lot of the parts of the festival, such as the food, are donated in-kind by local businesses.

At the snack shack, which was available to the public on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, festival-goers could take advantage of all sorts of free food, such as hot dogs, nachos, ice cream and popcorn. The shack also gave out free water. Sherman said on Friday alone, the shack fed over 200 people and stayed open until 11 p.m.

At this year’s festival, there was some controversy surrounding whether or not the Festival was secretly religious. Some Clatskanie residents were commenting on Facebook about different religious aspects of the festival, such as the worship services offered on Sunday, and the fact that the event was hosted in part by Piercing Arrow Private School, a Christian private school in Clatskanie.

Sherman said these accusations are unfounded.

“The people making those comments never came to the festival,” Sherman said.  “90 percent of these events are not religious. Some of those comments are just comments. There wasn’t even religious music up there.”

Sherman also said similar neighboring community events, such as Rainier Days, have an entire Sunday reserved for religious services, something that the Clatskanie Festival did not do.

Sherman said the accusations may have come because one event, a memorial service for community members who have passed away in the last year, was new to the festival this year. According to Sherman, that event was sponsored by two non-religious entities in the community, the owners of the Clatskanie Mini Mart, and Clatskanie Floral, LLC.

“Every year forever for 34 years they had a memorial service once a year. That was brought to our attention, so we thought maybe that was something we needed to bring back to our community,” Sherman said.

The reason behind the theme of the festival, “Let the Light Shine,” was because of the fact that so many towns, in Sherman’s opinion, are hurting because of traumas like gun violence, or losing their homes due to environmental damage, like the intense flooding in the Midwest region of the United States.

“There’s a lot of towns hurting now, and it’s like where would we be? We are so fragmented, I don’t know where we would be. It’s nice to know we have that support system if we need it,” Sherman said.

The purpose of the festival, Sherman said, was to bring the community together and to have fun.

While the community seems to enjoy a lot of the events, Sherman said one of the highlights is the night parade, where floats are decorated with colorful lights, and the parade meanders from Clatskanie Elementary School all the way down Nehlam Street to Clatskanie City Park.

Like in previous years, Clatskanie Mayor Bob Bracjich served as the grand marshal in the parade, Sherman said.

But Sherman said she thinks the community enjoys the festival as a whole.

“People used to go outside, sit on the porch, talk to their neighbor, and we hardly do that anymore,” Sherman said, adding, “this is just to get back down to the basics, come together for free and enjoy each other’s company.”

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