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How to handle rejection

Written by: Ruth Simonsen | Digital Media Manager

It happened again. Another ghosted date, another failed interview, another ruined friendship. It’s difficult to not let these situations affect you when they feel like a direct attack on your character. How could they have not fallen in love with you just after that one date? How could that employer not have hired you on the spot? How come your friend from high school now no longer follows you on Instagram?

These are questions that everyone has asked themselves at least once in their life. And, if you think you’re special because you haven’t encountered these thoughts yet, just be patient, your time will come. 

Rejection is one of the few things everyone on this planet will experience at least once in their lifetime. Whether it is from a close partner or a coveted job, these feelings tend to find us when we’re least expecting it — leaving us shaken down to our core about our own sense of self. How could this person, who had once sworn that they love you, now pretend like you’re nothing but a stranger? 

While it may be beneficial to ask yourself these questions, it is important to remember that not everything has to do with you. In our culture today, we have become so obsessed with ourselves that we make everything about us in every single way. We have two options we turn to: either blaming ourselves and beating ourselves up for nothing or putting all of our anger, hate and blame onto someone else. 

These options are the easiest to turn to, though they may not be the healthiest for your mental state. Rather than creating blame and hurt feelings, try to first take a breath and a big step back from the situation. Imagine you’re just a bystander, looking in on a situation that does not concern them. Stay as unbiased as possible while contemplating. 

What if it wasn’t your fault or their fault that the date ended poorly? Some people just do not click, and that is neither party’s fault. What if you didn’t get that job because a better one is waiting for you? Someday you’ll look back at that first rejection and be grateful it happened. What if that high school friend has just grown into a different person from who you once knew? Who’s to say you haven’t grown into a different person also? There is peace in knowing that not everyone that comes into your life is meant to stay forever.

Rejection can be a sign to reevaluate your current path, but it is never a sign to give up on your own journey of growth.

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Empathy in education

Written by: Sierra Porter | Staff Writer

As individuals, there are many elements that affect our daily lives and further influence us as human beings. One element that every human has succumbed to in life is consistent trials and tribulations. As a society, we believe that education and schooling should help us learn and move away from these challenges, including those we face outside of these institutions. For some, this creates a disconnect between school life and home life — believing that a solution in one will fix the other. What our education system is currently missing, that will help this disconnect, is empathy. 

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. This is not just having pity or sorrow for others as sympathy does, but rather, one truly puts oneself in the other’s shoes, viewing things from their perspective. For one to have a truly valuable education with others, it must also involve some form of empathetic learning. 

Those with particularly consistent negative aspects in their home life, especially young students, face things like changing family dynamics. These include financial issues, sibling bullying, history of neglect or maltreatment and more, and are more likely to have struggles in school — leading to a greater chance of dropping out. 

For many, it’s nearly impossible to disassociate the troubles they face at home away from their school life. It’s up to us, as individuals, to learn and encourage empathy — making everyone’s school environment as positive a place as can be. 

Educators who use an empathetic approach to teaching and addressing classroom issues create an inclusive and open environment for students — encouraging them to build safe relationships with their teachers and peers. Empathetic learning and teaching also promote a positive learning environment where students feel valued and proud of their abilities. 

Creating a safe and comfortable environment for students will allow them to enjoy school more, thus motivating them to stick with their education and make overall better decisions in life. Teachers lead by example, so if one is leading with an empathetic mindset, then that will create a community of compassion and a generation of caring students. 

As a student, one can also promote empathy by showing compassion and kindness to their peers and teachers. You never truly know what is going on in others’ lives, so try to put yourself in their shoes. Showing care for your teacher and their life in or outside the classroom can show them how much their work is appreciated, encouraging them to continue teaching. Being empathetic with your peers will help you understand each other better, creating stronger bonds and deeper relationships, again, further creating a community of positive and caring people. 

Empathy in education is not just the responsibility of teachers and students, but institutions as a whole can also promote an empathetic environment and learning. Many schools explicitly promote empathetic learning through social-emotional learning, or SEL, programs or character education. 

Specific classes aren’t the only thing institutions can do to promote empathetic education. As an institution are they empathetic about their tuition? Empathetic about the types of classes they offer? Empathetic about deadlines and requirements for applying students? Empathic about those that need extra assistance, like disability accommodations? There are so many different ways to promote empathic learning and create an empathic environment as an institution — thus universities and schools all over should be looking at what their students need. 

Empathy in education will encourage a new generation of compassionate, caring and bonded individuals who will take their empathetic learning and apply it to the world. Empathy in education tells us that life is difficult, but you are not alone. 

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Chief’s kicker under fire for commencement speech

Written by: Jaylin Hardin | Sports Editor

Kicker for the Kansas City Chiefs football team, Harrison Butker, has recently come under fire for a commencement speech he gave May 11, 2024, at Benedictine College in Atchinson, Kansas. Benedictine is a Catholic college and Butker is of the Catholic faith. 

In his 20-minute address, Butker denounced abortion rights, Pride Month, COVID-19 lockdowns and “the tyranny of diversity, equity and inclusion,” as well as criticized Catholic Priests with a Taylor Swift lyric. But, it was how he addressed the female graduates that has been condemned the most on social media.

“I want to speak directly to you briefly because I think it is you, the women, who have had the most diabolical lies told to you. How many of you are sitting here now about to cross the stage, and are thinking about all the promotions and titles you’re going to get in your career?” Butker asked. “Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world. But I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world.”

Since then, Butker has faced backlash online from fans of the Chiefs and Taylor Swift alike, with a petition circulating around social media to remove him from the team. 

The nuns of Benedictine denounced Butker’s address in a statement posted to Facebook: “The sisters of Mount St. Scholastica do not believe that Harrison Butker’s comments in his 2024 Benedictine College commencement address represent the Catholic, Benedictine, liberal arts college that our founders envisioned and in which we have been so invested.” Mount St. Scholastica was one of the founding churches of Benedictine College. 

Members of the Catholic Church have had mixed reactions to Butker’s commencement speech, with a majority praising him for his statement. 

“I was thinking about my dad, who was also here, and how he’s probably clapping and so happy to see what he would say is a real man (reflecting) family values, good religious upbringing and representation of Christ to people,” ValerieAnne Volpe, who graduated from Benedictine with an art degree, said to the Associated Press. “You can just hear that he loves his wife. You can hear that he loves his family.”

Other students told The Associated Press in interviews that they embrace the college’s emphasis on Catholic teaching and practice.

“It’s a renewal of some really, really good things that we might have lost,” one student said. On the other end, some Catholics have lamented their frustration with Butker’s statements. One graduate, Kassidy Neuner, told The Associated Press that the kicker should have made it clear that men can be homemakers, too.

On May 24, 2024, Butker spoke at the Regina Caeli Academy Courage Under Fire Gala in Nashville, Tennessee about the backlash he has received.

“It is now, over the past few days, my beliefs or what people think I believe have been the focus of countless discussions around the globe,” Butker said Friday. “At the outset, many people expressed a shocking level of hate. But as the days went on, even those who disagreed with my viewpoints shared their support for my freedom of religion. My hope is that tonight’s theme and our mission will embolden others, that many more will be unapologetic of their Catholic faith and never be afraid to speak out for truth, even when it goes against the loudest voices.”

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Ten years later…

Written by: Gretchen Sims | Editor-In-Chief     Hannah Field | News Editor

Western has been a key leader among Oregon Public Universities when it comes to sustainability practices. Ackerman Hall, as one example, was not only built to be sustained by solar power — Ackerman has two types of solar panels that reduce its residents’ energy consumption by 35 percent — but goes so far as to have a built-in, 30,000-gallon tank to harvest rainwater, reducing 50 percent of potable water usage by flushing toilets.

More recently, Western saw the implementation of the ReWOUsable To-Go Container program which has helped limit excess waste of to-go boxes. Additionally, Campus Dining has a Sustainable Dining Program that works to decrease its carbon footprint by buying from local vendors to support small businesses and sustainable practices, decreasing transportation costs, when possible, and opting to compost over throwing out leftover food. 

University Housing has also moved to establish a comprehensive recycling program to decrease Western’s carbon footprint further. 

However, Western has not always had a history of supporting calls of action for climate change or sustainability, whether coming from within the house — students, staff and faculty — or community members. 

In 2014, Mark Van Steeter, a current Sustainability Professor but Geography Professor at the time, encouraged Western to take a step further in the fight against climate change and pushed to further its sustainability progressivism. Van Steeter began advocating for divestment from fossil fuels, alongside the Environmental Club on campus.

“Unlikely, but you may ask ‘why divest from fossil fuels?’ The reason is that industry must adapt rapidly to a lower carbon energy source in order to remain profitable and contain the potentially disastrous consequences of global warming. The science is extraordinarily clear. A warmer planet is not inherently a problem, the problem is that we have based industrialized society on the assumption of a stable climate and now our population numbers which increase by a quarter of a million a day cannot be sustained if significant climate disruptions continue and grow,” Van Steeter said in an email to Tommy Love and Former Western President Mark Weiss, Sept. 22, 2014. 

The day after Van Steeter reached out to Love and Weiss, an email was sent out to students and staff that read:

“I believe it may be time to start a campaign at (Western). Since we are a small university with

minimal ties to the fossil fuel industry, it may be an easy statement for us to make regarding our

vision and integrity. It is an opportunity to give (Western) public attention regarding our investment in a prosperous future for our students.” 

On Oct. 9, Van Steeter began to receive pushback for his persistence in the divestment plan. This was said in an email from James Baumgartner, the Chair of the WOU Foundation at that time:

“However, it is not appropriate, nor can I see it as anything other than a strategy to agitate, for you to make inquiries directly to the (WOU) Foundation’s investment advisor. No such firm would make disclosures about its client’s investments to random public inquiries, nor should they, and I can’t imagine me ever asking your advisors or PE(E)RS for your investment information (much less, expect them to provide it)… I will give your request appropriate consideration. However, at this point, the Foundation has decided it will not actively pursue a fossil fuel divestment policy.” 

After these email exchanges, both a student and Western Alumni requested to present before the WOU Foundation concerning the divestment, but both were denied.

On Nov. 13, 2014, Weiss divulged in an op-ed article for the Statesman Journal that, while climate change needs immediate action, divestment was not the solution. Van Steeter responded Nov. 19, also via an Opinion piece in the Statesman Journal, urging Weiss to divest. 

A few days later, Nov. 22, student activists collected over 250 peer signatures in support of divestment. 

The Foundation responded to pressure from students and staff by conducting a hearing Jan. 9, 2015, with Baumgartner and Tommy Love, executive director of the Office of University Advancement and WOU Foundation at that time. Former Western student, Beth Bello, was in attendance at this meeting. Bello founded the Environmental Club in the fall of 2014 and acted as president until she graduated in the spring of 2016. 

Both Van Steeter and Bello reported that, in this meeting, Baumgartner informed the group that he was a paid lawyer for Tar Sands Oil extraction from Canada and the Keystone Pipeline. He then went on to tell the divestment group that fossil fuel divestment would not be on the Foundation’s meeting agenda due to an incomplete proposal. 

Van Steeter attests that “All information regarding questions was provided, but not in the appropriate format.”

Baumgartner recommended the divestment advocates present before the Planned Giving and Finance Committee of the Foundation which, if found favorable, could land them back on the agenda.

The Western Howl, known at that time as the Western Oregon Journal, reported on previous meetings discussing divestment in Nov. of 2014. “…in attendance at the meeting was Tommy Love, executive director in the Office of University Advancement and WOU Foundation. Love said divesting is a complicated issue and the foundation wants to make sure they do what’s right,” wrote Laura Knudson, a former Editor-In-Chief.

Also in that article, Love reportedly said, “‘I don’t want students to think that the foundation and myself do not recognize the issue of climate change…’ Divesting is ‘one way to do it, but let’s have a campus-wide conversation to address global climate change.’”

“Unfortunately, I am not surprised that (Western)’s Board has chosen to ignore student voices and undeniable scientific evidence on the issue of climate change. During our meeting with the board in January of 2015, the chair of the WOU Foundation, Jim Baumgartner, revealed that he was a paid lawyer for Tar Sands Oil extraction from Canada and the Keystone Pipeline. He made it abundantly clear that he was worried about his personal investments and had no intention of voting to divest due to this conflict of interest. I think the entire divestment team lost hope at his words,” said Bello. 

Bello is now a teacher at North Salem High School and teaches AP Human Geography, following in Van Steeter’s footsteps. 

“At the time of our meeting, (Western)’s mission statement included the assertion that (Western) ‘Continuously improves our educational, financial, and environmental sustainability.’ One of our main arguments in the divestment campaign was that (Western)’s board was not living up to its mission statement. Nine years later, the university has removed all mention of environmental sustainability and global citizenship. I have to admit, I think it’s because they realized we were right,” said Bello.  

While the Board meeting did not end in the divestment group’s favor, Bello still managed to take something away from the experience. 

“In a way, the board’s decision not to divest from fossil fuels has empowered me. It took time, but it helped me to understand the terrible cost of human greed and how insignificant my efforts were in combating that. If we had gotten what we wanted, I might have thought that creating change is easy — all you have to do is collect signatures and wave signs and point out hypocrisy — but that’s not true. Change has to come from the top. Only constant economic pressure from citizens will force governments and industries into changing,” said Bello.

This meeting was not wholly unsuccessful for those in favor of Western’s divestment from fossil fuels. 

A Socially Responsible Fund was established in 2016, which promised a divestment from fossil fuels when the fund reached $20,000. 

“(The WOU Foundation) did make a fund that does not invest in fossil fuels or tobacco, but to my knowledge, it’s just sitting there with a small amount of money in it. And not promoted at all,” Van Steeter said.

Van Steeter, himself, donated to the fund alongside a small group of colleagues however, no changes have been spotted in regards to the promotion of the Socially Responsible Fund from 2016, the same fund that Mark and two other colleagues donated to close to eight years ago.

“On the divestment scene, I submitted to the faculty senate (a proposal) and the faculty senate passed it, approved it. But the faculty senate is simply an advisory body. And the foundation, more or less, kept telling me to get lost and would agree to meet with students, but then basically do nothing. It was a pretty interesting experience seeing how you can play like you’re acting with integrity, but you aren’t… It was a little humbling,” said Van Steeter. 

More recently, a member of the Monmouth-Independence Climate Task Force, a community group, approached Western with an idea that could both make the campus more sustainable and save the the college money — all at little or no cost due to federal funding from the Inflation Reduction Act  One task force member, Skip Wenz writes a column for several newspapers in the Willamette Valley titled “Your Ecological House.” While this column first started as a sustainable home renovation guide, it has now turned into a discussion about climate change. 

Wenz also was the founder and Director of the Ecological Design Program at the San Francisco Institute of Architecture, and has worked in the sustainability field for several decades.

Wenz first met solar expert, Dan Orzech of the Oregon Clean Power Cooperative, at a church in Salem that had recently installed solar panels — Orzech led this project, as well as a project to install solar panels at Oregon State University. 

In 2022, President Joseph Biden signed the IRA, providing major tax incentives for not-for-profit institutions to switch to clean energy. Wenz thought that this might be a good opportunity for Western.

“He and I, and a couple of members of our little group actually scoped out a map, a Google map, of the campus online. And he had a couple of ideas of where, you know, just from looking at the map, where some (solar panels might go),” Wenz said. 

It was around this time when Wenz began to correspond with Western’s Current President, Jesse Peters. Wenz pitched an IRA funded solar panel installation idea to Peters.

“He gave me the name of somebody there that he wanted me to write, who I did write two or three times and never heard back from,” Wenz said. 

“I’m not sure what, if anything, could happen (because of The Inflation Reduction Act). From what I know, the best way for this college to get its hands on federal money (is) to do more solar stuff. (Western could) hire (Orzech) as a consultant to plan a solar installation with IRA funding, because he’s an expert and he’s done it on several (occasions). Western Oregon is qualified, it’s a type of institution that they specifically designed this money to go to,” said Wenz. 

After not getting a response to his numerous emails, Wenz stopped pushing. 

“I didn’t wanna push too hard because I didn’t wanna alienate anybody, especially Jesse Peters… he did what a good administrator does, which is, send me to somebody else… And for all I know, you know, somebody over there is already working on it, but I haven’t heard anything about it,” Wenz said. 

Sustainable practices are usually associated with climate change, but there would be other benefits that Western could gain by switching to a local power source such as solar panels. 

“If you are replacing a consumable, like electricity, that you are buying from someone else, with what we could call capital expenses, which is equipment you buy once, and then you can use it for 20 years, you’re stabilizing the costs of the power you generate, and so the fluctuations in the electricity market won’t affect you as drastically. If you either set it up as a microgrid to be independent from the larger grid, or you add local storage, you buy resiliency in the case of natural disasters,” said Stephen Howard, a member of the Monmouth-Independence Climate Task Force. 

Howard’s interest in climate issues began when he was a student studying architecture — which led to an interest in urban design. During his nearly 25 years in the industry, Howard has learned that “…a lot of the solutions, certainly not all of them, but many solutions, to the climate (are) in the urban design space, in terms of how our buildings are built and how we access services and work and school. Where you live and how it’s developed (has) a lot to do with your personal carbon footprint, more than what you choose to buy or what you own.”

Howard mentioned that the Monmouth-Independence community that surrounds Western would also benefit from the university generating its own electricity with the installation of solar panels. 

“This is an indirect benefit to Western, but the amount of electricity that our community pulls from Bonneville, we pay a certain rate, a wholesale rate to Bonneville, and as the amount of electricity our community demands goes up, we will eventually hit a higher tier price for that electricity, so the more electricity we generate locally, the more we push off that date of having to pay more for our power. So whether it’s Western, or the local governments, or the school district, or individual homeowners, the more local power we generate, the cheaper we keep our electricity,” Howard said. 

Upon contacting President Peters for a comment, he offered one statement and redirected the rest of his questions to the Director of Marketing and Communications, Maureen Brakke, who also acts as the Public Information Officer for Western.

“Though it can be a slow and difficult process, (Western) has taken steps over the years to address sustainability. This is particularly important in a time of rapidly changing climate, and even small actions can make a difference. I have no doubt that the students and employees in our community will continue to find ways to be part of the solution,” Peters said. 

Brakke commented on some ways Western Students have previously practiced sustainability. “Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, (Western)’s residence halls had a Green Team whose purpose was to implement and coordinate the residence hall recycling program which included collection and maintenance of centralized recycling locations throughout the residence halls. Additionally, they provided educational programming that increased environmental and sustainability awareness within the residence halls. This program isn’t currently active but it is a sustainability initiative that they plan to bring back soon,” said Brakke. 

It has yet to be seen who is in charge of the initiative or when it will be revived.

“Regarding your foundation investment question, the WOU Foundation Board established a Socially Responsible Fund in 2016, and we will continue to seek growth in that account. The leadership at the Foundation has changed a lot since then, but we are exploring new ways to promote and grow the fund,” Brakke said. 

The WOU Foundation did not respond to Van Steeter’s emails or calls in his effort to provide accurate, up-to-date information regarding the fund. 

“We hope to continue to make ongoing improvements to reducing, reusing and recycling on campus, and become more energy efficient, looking at using more efficient appliances, lighting, etc. Our community is also engaged in more walking, biking, carpooling and using our local Trolley, we encourage our community to continue to utilize these more environmentally friendly modes of transportation when possible. We also actively plant new trees where we have to remove trees on campus. As a public university, we follow Oregon state laws and policies regarding environmental regulation,” said Brakke.

In the end, it’s important to foster open, productive conversations about climate change. It’s easy to advocate for climate change by sounding alarms about the negative consequences of not taking action, but “…that’s really only half the conversation. We need to spend at least as much effort imagining how much better things will be when we get this right,” said Howard.

“I think as much as we need the warnings of what could go wrong, we also need something to look forward to. And without both, I think it’s a lot harder to get people on board, avoiding something that seems sort of nebulous and negative versus having a goal to reach for. And so I would encourage the campus, whether it’s the student body, or the staff and faculty, or everybody combined, to really think about the positives and what we could have if we put the work in now to build a better future,” Howard continued. 

“For a while, losing the fight for divestment made me feel hopeless, but I don’t feel that way anymore. It taught me about the insidious and pervasive reach of the oil industry. The whole experience taught me that I have a voice that can be used for change, and even if that change doesn’t happen overnight, I am one of countless people that will collectively use our voices to transform the world,” said Bello. 

“I’m not saying that we should throw all our money into sustainability and then have the rest of the university collapse,” said Van Steeter. “But we need to start putting it on the agenda whenever we’re making decisions… I would love to have Western be this icon of a small public university that focuses on sustainability and offers these really high-quality programs with small class sizes. We have all the tools to do that — (Western is) really just beautiful.”

Van Steeter remains hopeful that someday the college will divest from fossil fuels.

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ASWOU elections

Written by: Hannah Field | News Editor

The Associated Students of Western are expecting to elect President Brenda Rocio Martinez, Vice President Fernando Robles and Judicial Administrator Morgan Pemberton into office for the 2024-2025 academic school year. The trio is running as a team and remains unopposed.

Expected incoming president, Rocio Martinez, described herself as a proud first-generation Latina student at Western. “I am running for ASWOU President to represent and support all students who want their voices heard. My candidacy is driven by my understanding of the unique challenges and aspirations of being the first in my family to pursue higher education,” she wrote on Presence, the website permitting for the ASWOU election.

“I am committed to using my and others’ perspectives to advocate for crucial changes that support our diverse student populations, ensuring that all voices are heard and valued.”

Rocio Martinez explained her initiatives to be primarily focused on bridging connections between students and higher-ups in attempts to “enrich the university experience.” Simultaneously, Rocio Martinez pledges to expand relationships, resources and support for everyone.

Robles, running for Vice President, left a statement as well: “I’m running for vice president because I would want to make an impact on campus.”

Judicial Administrator candidate Pemberton stated, “I’m running for judicial office because I care deeply about our campus community and making sure everyone’s voice is heard… One thing you should know about me is that I’m all about diversity and inclusion. I truly believe that embracing our differences makes our community stronger and more vibrant.”

Pemberton also promoted creating a collective judicial system that properly reflects the campus’s values and promotes fairness and equality in the community.

ASWOU opened elections March 8 and cannot conclude until 10 percent of the student body has voted — allowing for enough student voices to be heard so that the results can be deemed fair.

All other open positions allow for write-in candidates, meaning that anyone may be named to potentially fill the position. The write-in positions include the following: Senate President; three openings on the Incidental Fee Committee; 11 openings for ASWOU Senate: Senate Candidates; and three openings for the ASWOU Judicial Board: Judicial Candidates.
As of May 29, voting is still ongoing. To vote, students must list their V number and certify that they are Western students and will abide by the election results.

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Hiking trail recommendations

Written by: Quinlan Elise | Photo Editor

The weather is getting nicer, and it’s time to go on some hikes while the trails aren’t too muddy. Here are some recommendations for good local hikes to go on, with friends or solo.  

Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge — About 20 minutes away in Dallas, there is a system of walkable trails, filled with a variety of beautiful wild plants and animals. Baskett Slough is a great place to go to birdwatch, but be sure to wear sunscreen because shade can be hard to find.

Silver Falls — An Oregon staple, Silver Falls State Park is 50 minutes East of Monmouth. The highlight of the trails is a wide arched walk behind a 177-foot waterfall curtain. A visit to the Trail of Ten Falls is a must, bringing hikers to the base of ten waterfalls along a 7.2-mile loop with shortcuts, if needed. As a more popular site, a parking permit must be purchased.  

McDowell Creek Falls — About 70 minutes from Monmouth, Lebanon has a beautiful three miles of hiking trails alongside clear water. There are four layers of waterfalls to find, with lookout points and benches to rest, and a beautiful bridge system perfect for photos.

Abiqua Falls — A short but steep hike with a rewarding view, Abiqua Falls is an 80-minute drive to Scotts Mills. The route to the trail may require a car that can handle big bumps, and the hike is difficult, but the secluded and magical waterfall is worth the trek. 

Dog Mountain — Located two hours away in the Columbia River Gorge, the Dog Mountain trail lines the Southern border of Washington alongside the Columbia River. The trail is one of the most popular, but also one of the most strenuous in the Gorge, and the steep hike is prone to strong winds.  It is currently peak spring wildflower season in the area, so one should be prepared for traffic and possibly full parking lots. There is a $5 permit fee and a shuttle from Stevenson, WA, if there are no parking spots available.  

Drift Creek Falls — An easy trail with a towering waterfall and suspension bridge, this hike brings one out to the Oregon Coast, where there are numerous other lush locations to visit. One will need to purchase a $5 day pass, but that can be done online. Drift Creek Falls is a 75-minute drive from Monmouth toward Lincoln City. 

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Where a small town meets a big tradition

Written by: Jaylin Hardin | Sports Editor

From May 23 – 27, 2024, one of the largest Memorial Day celebrations in the nation took place. Hosted at Riverside Park in Grants Pass, Oregon, a town of roughly 39,000 people, the festivities hosted several vendors and attendees from around the country and the globe.

Boatnik, as it is fondly known, began in 1959, and has its early beginnings with the Grants Pass Active Club, a non-profit organization focused on giving back to the children of Josephine County. All proceeds from the event go directly to supporting youth programs.

Originally conceived as a boat race in the 1950s, it has now evolved into a multi-day extravaganza that many in the community say embodies pride and patriotism.

The festivities began with the annual parade through downtown Grants Pass, with local marching bands, organizations and dignitaries among the participants. The drivers for the hydroplane, sprint and drag boat races also participated in this parade, showing off their vibrant boats that took to the water almost immediately after. This year’s parade theme was “Honoring Our Heroes, a Salute to Service.”

Two of the most iconic participants of the parade are the Grants Pass Cavemen and the Grants Pass High School — GPHS — marching band. Both have received national recognition, with the GPHS marching band participating in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade almost every year and the Cavemen traveling nationally to spread goodwill and tourism for Josephine County; the Cavemen are an organization that began in 1922 that now works alongside the Active Club. Dressing in animal skins, horsehair wigs and buck teeth, the Cavemen run rampant throughout the parade, “kidnapping” parade viewers and putting them up for display in a handmade, wooden cage. 

One of the Cavemen’s more iconic moments occurred in the 1940s, when they kidnapped Presidential Nominee Thomas E. Dewey while he was in Oregon for his campaign. The picture of Dewey circulated throughout Europe until it reached Soviet Russia, where news outlets claimed they dressed in this manner to “protest against the cruel and Wall Street-backed church.” Other notable kidnapees include Shirley Temple, Babe Ruth, Henry Ford, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Herbert Hoover, as well as the Oregon congressional delegation, who were once held hostage and harassed on the Senate floor.

Following the parade, the fun really began, with drag and sprint boat exhibitions and time trials taking place on Saturday and Sunday and the hydroplane boat race, the Tom Rice Memorial Race, taking place on Memorial Day. This year, the sprint boat racers came from USSBA Racing, an organization that participates in sprint races around the globe.

Taking place alongside these races was a golf shoot-out, carnival, Brewfest and concert, hosting the rock band, Firehouse, as the headliner. Both the shoot-out and the Brewfest occurred on Saturday and Sunday, enticing thousands of visitors to try more than 50 brews and ciders from the region and 64 golfers to try and win the grand prize. 

The carnival took place Thursday afternoon through Monday night and featured rides and carnival games from Davis Shows Northwest. Vendors in attendance offered a plethora of services, from food and jewelry to art and different physical experiences, including Zorb Water Balls, rock climbing and bungee trampolining.  

The one event everyone truly looks forward to, however, is the Memorial Day service.

The ceremony began with a jet flyover from Oregon’s 173rd Fighter Wing, located in Klamath Falls, Oregon. The national anthem then played as a flag was unfurled from Grants Pass’ Caveman Bridge. 

A pastor from a local church led the ceremony in prayer in memory of fallen soldiers, followed by a moment of silence. Veterans from a local unit gave a 21-gun salute and a wreath and rose petals were floated down the Rogue River, accompanied by a bagpipe playing “Taps.”

During the roughly 11-minute ceremony, silence fell over the park in honor of fallen soldiers. 

Attendees and Active Club members both spoke fondly of their time at Boatnik.

“It’s an event that gathers everyone together far and wide to celebrate the town and the Rogue (Valley) for the new season,” said sophomore Clark Callahan. “I remember puking up an entire deep-fried jumbo pickle, and it is one of the best memories of my life. I love Boatnik.”

“(Planning) is a year-long process,” said Active Club President, Kent DeRocher. “As soon as Boatnik is over on Monday, we start planning the first week in June for (the) next year’s.” DeRocher was recently elected president of the Active Club for a one-year term but has been a member of the organization since 2003, only a year after he moved to the Grants Pass area. 

“I love it. I mean, it’s a lot of work… But it’s been fantastic,” DeRocher said. “I met someone that I was really good friends with that was in the Active Club and they brought me in (my) first year I was here… I moved here and I was in the Club and that’s all I know.”

In my own experiences at Boatnik, I have found nothing but fun and whimsy, as well as a beautiful ceremony honoring fallen soldiers. As a Grants Pass local who has attended Boatnik every year — except 2020 — I think it is an experience everyone should have a chance to enjoy, young or old. 

“It’s a place that the valley gets to gather, watch the races and (all) the amazing events that go on,” said junior Kat Griggs, who is a Southern Oregon local.” If you haven’t been, put it on your calendar for next year. It’s a great time.”  

Next year’s Boatnik will take place from May 22 – 26, 2025. For more information on Boatnik visit, or if one wishes to explore the Rogue Valley, visit

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