City park reservations point to a more exciting summer in Salem

People gathered in Riverfront Park to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day on Monday, Oct. 11, 2021. (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

Salem residents and event organizers are booking reservations at city parks at the highest rates since the pandemic began.

Those include both commercial events and smaller gatherings such as wedding receptions, birthday parties and family reunions, said Becky George, recreation supervisor for the city of Salem.

George said around 100 events have been booked at city parks so far in 2022, and she expects they will total between 300 and 400 by the end of the year.

“People are slowly coming back,” she said.

In 2019, she had 517 events at city parks marked on her calendar, which she said provides a rough figure, though it doesn’t include all events booked in a given year.

Over the past two years, she said, “it’s been pretty quiet,” with many events canceled due to Covid.

George said she had 245 events marked for 2020, but only around half of those went ahead without cancellation. 

She had 220 on her calendar for 2021. Of those, around 20 were canceled.

Most of the reservations this year are at Riverfront Park. The second-most booked is Minto Brown Island Park, followed by Bush’s Pasture Park.

“I’m not a meteorologist, but I mean, we’ve had some pretty good weather in the last few weeks where we’ve been in the 60s and sun,” George said.

A smiling competitor in Ironman 70.3 heads for Salem streets for the bicycling stage after swimming 1.2 miles in the Willamette River on Sunday, July 25. (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

In addition to many scheduled fundraising walks and runs held by local nonprofits, larger events slated for 2022 include:

-Salem Art Fair and Festival, July 15-17 at Bush’s Pasture Park

-The World Beat Festival, which showcases different cultures from around the world, June 24-26 at Riverfront Park

-Ironman 70.3 Oregon, July 10

-Family Building Blocks’ Riverfront Family Fest, a fair for health and safety resources, Aug. 6 at Riverfront Park

-Fish Fest, a Christian music festival, Aug. 20 at Riverfront Park

-Reventon de Verano, a Mexican music festival, Aug. 21 at Riverfront Park

George said the city is planning a Fourth of July fireworks show at Riverfront Park but still needs to find a vendor for the fireworks.

For the first time since 2019 due to the pandemic, she said the city-sponsored Movies in the Park will return this summer at Riverfront Park. Family-friendly movies will be shown for free July 16, July 30, Aug. 6 and Aug. 13 in the Gerry Frank Salem Rotary Amphitheater. 

The movies haven’t yet been determined, according to the city’s website.

George said there were times during the pandemic that the city didn’t issue permits for events at its parks because of state mandates limiting gatherings. Even for smaller gatherings, she said, the city didn’t have enough staff to have monitors onsite and couldn’t make reservations.

“We’re all eager to be able to get back outside and enjoy our park system and get back together with family and friends, whether you’re going to a concert, or just going for a walk in a park or attending a walk and run that a local nonprofit is doing,” she said.

Reservation fees vary depending on the park and type of event. Smaller gatherings such as birthday parties range around $25-$50 an hour, with higher commercial rates for larger events.

Parks can be reserved by contacting the Parks and Recreation Services office at 503-588-6261, Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or on the city’s website.

Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

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