PENDLETON — Pendleton’s Fourth of July Parade is back this year, portending bigger things to come.

Veterans of Foreign Wars “Let ‘er Buck” Post 922 recently announced it will stage a parade on Independence Day in 2021 after canceling its 2020 event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the pandemic is ongoing, the state’s restrictions on large events are starting to loosen. After a lost summer for major events in Pendleton, organizer Fred Bradbury said the Fourth of July Parade will act as one of the city’s first returning events this year, along with the recently revived Pendleton Whisky Music Fest.

The parade also has named VFW Commander Judith Burger its grand marshal.

In an interview, Burger said she agreed to hold the ceremonial role back in 2020. Back then, one of her fellow VFW members asked her for her resume, but she didn’t ask what it would be used for.

She had an inkling it was for some sort of honor, but no idea it was a part of an application for the grand marshal spot. In a short introduction to her resume, Burger shared her feelings about the impending honor.

“There are so many men and women much more deserving of this recognition,” she wrote. “However, if I am indeed selected, I will take the example of my Grandfather, Thomas Roosevelt Myers, WWII POW survivor, when he was awarded any honor or recognition … accept it with humility and in honor of those who have sacrificed everything in their service to our nation, and those who struggle to live in the world after serving.”

Burger herself served in the U.S. Army during the 1990s, including a stint driving trucks at a military base in South Korea.

After she was discharged, Burger struggled with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder but found a new sense of purpose after joining a VFW post in Redmond. She joined Post 922 after moving to Pendleton in 2017 and quickly rose through the ranks to the commander position.

Since her term as commander will be over by the time of the parade, Burger thought organizers might choose someone else to fill the grand marshal role for 2021, but they were insistent that she keep it.

Burger said she felt like the 2021 Fourth of July Parade is important because it is a celebration of freedom following the COVID-19 lockdowns.

The parade will function similarly to previous events, starting at 10 a.m. at Pendleton City Hall on Southwest Dorion Avenue before moving toward South Main Street, heading west on Southwest Court Avenue and then ending at the Pendleton Convention Center.

Parade organizers are continuing to accept free applications for parade participants. The most highly regarded participants could win an award across several categories, with the top-rated participant winning the VFW Patriot Trophy.

While Oregon’s restrictions have loosened as more people have received the vaccine, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends unvaccinated people who attend large outdoor events wear masks and socially distance themselves.

Heading into the summer, local organizers were unsure whether the state would allow them to resume their annual events given the state’s COVID-19 regulations. Some events, like Pendleton Bike Week, chose to cancel their event for the second consecutive year and look ahead to 2022.

But others chose to come back. The Pendleton Cattle Barons resumed its event on April 30, and concerts, namely the Jackalope Jamboree and Whisky Fest, have committed to reopening later this summer.

Whisky Fest is contending with an audience cap for its July 10 show and will announce a new headliner later this week.

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