Although the Milton-Freewater Rocks! festival has been canceled, the community has bigger things to celebrate as it rolls out its first new school in nearly a century.
Voters in May 2016 overwhelmingly passed a $12.5 million school bond in the Milton-Freewater School District. Additional money for the school and sports complex project came from the Wayne and Gladys Valley Foundation, and the Oregon School Capital Improvement Matching Program.
Gib Olinger Elementary School — named after a longtime community volunteer, local businessman, school board member and a member of the 1939 University of Oregon “Tall Firs” championship team — is Milton-Freewater’s first new school building since 1922. Olinger died in 1999. His daughter, Barbara Olinger, said in a 2017 interview that her father often avoided taking credit for his good deeds.
“My father is looking down from heaven, saying, ‘They didn’t have to do that,’” she said about naming the school after him.
Gib Olinger Week — aka GO Week — kicks off Wednesday, Aug. 22 with a family movie night at 6:30 p.m. in the school’s gymnasium, 1011 S. Mill St. Popcorn, bottled water and candy bars will be available for purchase during the showing of a G-rated movie.
The celebration continues Thursday, Aug. 23, with a parade at 5:30 p.m. It will begin at Grove Elementary and travel to Gib Olinger Elementary. At the school, there will be fun and games for the whole family. Activities include Latin dance and cheer team demonstrations, face painting, a dunk tank, a cake walk, sports activities and more.
“This is such a wonderful accomplishment for our community, and we couldn’t be happier to help organize this fun celebration for our town to enjoy,” said Jennifer Konrad, Milton-Freewater Chamber of Commerce executive director.
The official dedication ceremonies will be held Friday, Aug. 24, at 5 p.m. in the gym, followed by a ribbon-cutting at 6 p.m. in front of the building. A salmon barbecue will be served at 6:30 p.m. on the softball fields. Dinner tickets, which are available at the chamber and school district offices, are $15 per person. Also, hot dog meals for youths will be available for purchase.
Also held in conjunction with the event is the 18th annual “Harvest of Art.” The juried fine arts show starts Wednesday from 5 to 8 p.m. in the school’s cafeteria. It continues Thursday and Friday, 5-8 p.m.
In addition, the inaugural Broadway Block Party, hosted by the Milton-Freewater Downtown Alliance, is Saturday, Aug. 25, from 3-7 p.m.
Through its Project Discovery as a way of connecting the community, the group coined Broadway Avenue as the hyphen in Milton-Freewater. The event features bounce houses, face painting, a 5K run, food trucks and music by Diego and the Detonators. Also, adults can purchase beverages from Watermill Winery and Blue Mountain Cider Company.
“We wanted to create a fun family atmosphere that brings visitors and residents together,” said Norman Saager, owner of Broadway Family Dental Care and Broadway Fitness.
Viewing Milton-Freewater as a growing town, Alex Hedges, director of Watermill Winery, said there are tremendous opportunities for those who live and visit the city. Participating in the block party, he said, is a way to showcase what the town has to offer while giving back to the community.