On a mission to build community and get more folks to take in Philomath’s downtown area, Mayor Chas Jones added event organizer to his skillset. The result of those efforts is the Philomath Block Party and Concert, scheduled to occur this coming Monday on Memorial Day.

“I just feel passionate that when the community gathers, we become stronger as a community … so I’m just trying to find ways to do that,” Jones said. “It’s been a priority for me to get more events in the downtown area. It’s a great space for us to gather and so that was a motivation … I really want to get more people to engage in our downtown community.”

The special event will run from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on 13th Street running north and south on both sides of Main Street. There is no admission fee for the event. People are encouraged to bring their own chairs. 

As luck would have it, Jones was able to get the noted Americana band, Rose’s Pawn Shop, to appear in Philomath.

“My best friend went to kindergarten with their former banjo player and so I got connected with them a couple of decades ago actually and they’re just an incredible band,” Jones said. “I’ve seen them a number of times around the country.”

Based out of Los Angeles, Rose’s Pawn Shop’s songs “feature the folk-rock and bluegrass sounds of banjo, acoustic guitar and driving percussion” — as described on the group’s website.

“I just saw them last weekend in Anchorage because I happened to be in Alaska,” said Jones, whose job took him to the 49th state while Rose’s Pawn Shop made an appearance at the Anchorage Folk Festival.

Rose’s Pawn Shop will be featured at the Philomath Block Party and Concert on Monday, May 30. (Photo by Rose’s Pawn Shop)

The band is making appearances in Seattle and Port Angeles, Washington, and Portland in the days preceding their appearance in Philomath. Before they were booked, Jones had noticed that they had a gap in their tour schedule that would accommodate a Memorial Day stop, so he reached out to their manager.

“My Mom passed away in September a year ago and I had mentioned to her this idea, ‘hey Mom, wouldn’t it be awesome to have Rose’s Pawn Shop come to Philomath?’ and she was like, ‘oh my gosh, you should make that happen’ and then she passed away,” Jones said. “In the back of my mind, I kept wanting to do it and kept wanting to do it. … I realized I hadn’t reached out to Rose’s Pawn Shop at all until April and then I saw them pop up on my Facebook feed.”

Jones clicked on the link and it all fell into place.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a long time,” he said. “It just seemed that everything came together, the stars aligned and it’s all working out perfectly.”

Although there is no admission, organizers will accept donations for the band.

Prior to the concert, several activities will be offered. Beginning at 11 a.m., if the weather cooperates, classic cars and other types of unique vehicles will be lined up for display. Jones said members of a nearby historic car club were invited to participate.

Activities for children will be available from noon-1:30 p.m. with Maxtivity Arts and Crafts. The Shining Stars dance team from the high school will perform at 1:30 p.m.

A short Memorial Day presentation is scheduled to occur at 1:45 p.m. with Jones and former mayor Eric Niemann. The ceremony will focus on the eight veterans who were either from Philomath or attended the local high school and were killed in action during wartime, Jones said.

The Block Party will feature vendors, including at least one food truck, Jones said. Dirt Road Brewery will be on hand to serve beer.

Jones has been tinkering with the idea of some sort of community event for the past couple of years.

“I was thinking about how I wished the community had more events that brought people together and wouldn’t it be great if the city planned those events,” Jones said. “But after being in city government, I realized that the city’s role with planning those events is really up to our community partners.”

Jones, who is making an investment in the Block Party out of his own pocket, said he decided that he’d be the one to take the lead on such an event. He pitched the idea at a few organizations in town but none were able to take on an extra project. Still, he moved forward and picked up a couple of valuable sponsors.

Said Jones, “I really want to thank Alyrica and the (Philomath) Frolic (and Rodeo) for the sponsorships. … It should be amazing. I think it’s going to be a great fit for Philomath.”

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.