See why “the fair that wouldn’t die” ‚Äì even though Multnomah County commissioners cut funding and dropped their support of this great tradition years ago ‚Ä¶
Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Locating Multnomah County Fair at Portland Meadows for the past two years allowed organizers to hold the event in late summer. But, somehow, it never had the “fair-like” atmosphere of its longtime location, the Expo Center–or of its immediately previous home, Oaks Amusement Park.
“Memorial Day was the only weekend we could use Oaks Amusement Park,” Lillian Adams, an organizer with Friends of Multnomah County Fair. “We wish we’d had better weather, but here, we have the setting of a real fair. Our volunteers have done so much to keep the fair going.”
The fair that wouldn’t die
This year’s edition celebrates the county fair’s 100-year history. But if it weren’t for the volunteers who make up Friends of Multnomah County Fair, it would have blinked out of existence years ago.
“It’s hard to believe,” Adams said with a hint of frustration in her voice, “that the largest and most prosperous county in Oregon refuses to sustain 4-H, nor a county fair. Commissioner Lonnie Roberts has always supported us. Perhaps the new County Chair, Ted Wheeler, will see the value in preserving this great educational and recreational tradition for our young people.”
Top quality exhibits abundant
Although the fair’s return to Oaks Park wasn’t well promoted, other than in a front-page story on East PDX News and in The BEE, the exhibit hall was filled with quality entries, ranging from baking to sewing arts, photography ‚Äì and yes, even garden entries.
Kids, whose families who braved the weather in the first two days of the three-day fair, enjoyed Humphrey’s Barnyard Frolics–featuring the magic of Mother Goose, hands-on action exhibits like cow milking, and making “Mud Baby” crafts.
Chicken cooking competition draws hundreds
A new feature this year was the “Big Cluck Cookoff”, hosted by KXL radio’s “Mr. Barbeque”, Bruce Bjorkman. “Chicken is one of the meats that sometimes intimidate people when they think about cooking on the grill. Today, we showed that people, who have never been in a cook-off, can do it.”
Clearning weather boosts late attendance
On Saturday, May 27th, the opening day of the three-day fair, a stormy sky delivered moisture–ranging from a gentle mist to wind-blown pelting rain throughout the fair’s first afternoon. But, Oregonians dressed weather-appropriately, and got their thrills on many of the amusement rides at the park anyway.
The event faired better on Sunday with cool weather under heavily overcast skies. By Memorial Day, the sun came out ‚Äì and so did families.
Will there be a Multnomah County Fair next year?
“The fair and 4-H is important for our youth. It gives them something positive in which to channel their energy,” Adams stated. “I hope citizens will let their County Commissioners know they want to support these programs.”
¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News ~ Published May 29, 2006