March 27, 2013 - What's in a name?
To Oxford resident Rod Charles and the Oxford Downtown Development Authority (DDA), the answer is a lot.
That's why last week Charles approached the DDA board about the possibility of changing the name of the Aug. 3 Celebrate Oxford event to "Lone Ranger Days."
The idea is to take full advantage of all the publicity surrounding the July 3 release of the new $250 million Disney movie, starring Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp, about the masked lawman's adventures battling villains in the Old West.
"That's one thought I wanted to throw out there," Charles said. "I think when you say 'Lone Ranger Days,' it has a little bit more meaning to it. It's unique."
Charles is the chairman of a committee that's attempting to organize things such as a Hollywood-style movie premiere (or sneak peek) at downtown's Oxford 7 Theater and a Lone Ranger-themed parade during Celebrate Oxford.
"I don't want this to be about the movie," he said. "I want it to be about our community."
Oxford's connection to the Lone Ranger is very strong given Brace Beemer, who portrayed the masked man on the radio from 1941-54, lived right on W. Drahner Rd. until his death in 1965. Beemer performed in more than 2,000 broadcasts reaching more than 80 million listeners across the United States on 129 radio stations.
That's why the committee is trying to get all of Oxford's usual annual events to tie into the Lone Ranger theme. For instance, the annual Scarecrow Festival could feature scarecrows that resemble the Lone Ranger, his faithful Indian companion Tonto and that dastardly villain Butch Cavendish.
Charles made it clear he wasn't suggesting the name change be a permanent thing. He proposed it as a temporary update in order to "make it more inclusive," so it's not just viewed as an Oxford event.
For instance, there's a lot of interest from Orion officials and residents who wish to celebrate this area's connection to the Lone Ranger and changing the event's name could be a way to help make them feel like they're more a part of things.
"A lot of folks in Lake Orion have asked me (if) they can participate," Charles said.
Charles believes a name change would help broaden the appeal of the traditional Celebrate Oxford event and bring more people to town. In his opinion, more folks, particularly those who don't live in this area, can identify with the iconic Lone Ranger than a community in northern Oakland County.
"I thought Lone Ranger Days has a little bit more meat to it at least for this one year when you've got this big movie coming out, which is going to potentially bring some attention to our town," he explained.
Charles noted that using Lone Ranger in the name would have "a lot of clout and a lot of power."
But some DDA board members didn't like the idea of changing the Celebrate Oxford name, even temporarily.
"I'm not sure how that would work," said DDA Vice Chairman Jim Bielak. "It's been Celebrate Oxford forever."
"Of all the names, I'd hate to see that one changed," said DDA Board Member Tom Jones. "It's one of our larger events."
DDA Director Madonna Van Fossen was also opposed to a name change.
"You don't want to give up Celebrate Oxford as far as a marketing campaign goes," she said. "Change is going to throw people."
Charles pointed out that in the approximately 30 years he's lived here, the town's main festival has had a number of different names. It's been called everything from Pioneer Days to the Gravel Festival. Celebrate Oxford has been around since 1999.
"So, Celebrate Oxford is relatively new," Charles said.
Bielak indicated he liked the idea of a Lone Ranger-themed event, but maybe it should be given its own "slot" instead of commingling it with Celebrate Oxford.
Charles indicated that was considered, but with all the other events in town, the committee felt it was better to incorporate it as part of an existing celebration so as not to step on anyone's toes.
DDA Board Member Mickey Tankersly noted how the Celebrate Oxford brand or identity is "already established."
"I guess I'd rather see you use this Lone Ranger theme as like a tag line to that," he said. Tankersly suggested something like "Celebrate Oxford presents Lone Ranger Days."
Charles felt that name was a "little bit mouthy" and had "too many words."
He indicated he's open to a shorter name that combines elements of both such as "Celebrate Lone Ranger."
DDA Board Member Ed Hunwick asked if there are any trademark issues with using the Lone Ranger name.
At the time, Charles replied, "We've looked into that. We don't see any at this point."
However, Oxford Village attorneys Bob Bunting and Bob Davis have found one. In a March 26 written opinion, they indicated "The Lone Ranger" is trademarked with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The trademark is held by the New York City-based Classic Media, LLC.
"We strongly caution against using the Word Mark 'The Lone Ranger' without obtaining approval from the holder of that trademark," Bunting and Davis wrote. "We could contact the attorney for the holder of the trademark and explain the circumstances surrounding the Village of Oxford's desire to use the trademark in a parade. Given the facts, such a request might be viewed favorably."
"In the alternative, we believe the parade could be advertised as a Village of Oxford Parade celebrating The Lone Ranger," the attorneys noted.
Despite the DDA's resistance to the suggested name change, ultimately, what happens with this year's Celebrate Oxford event is no longer solely up to that board.
That event, like many others, is now being managed by a newly-formed Community Events Committee, consisting of representatives from Oxford Village, Oxford Township Parks and Recreation, the Oxford Chamber of Commerce, the DDA and the school district.
The committee's next meeting is Wednesday, March 27. If any changes are going to be made, it would be up to this committee to make those decisions.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.