4-H and pig races highlight Multnomah County Fair

Discover why thousands of folks are taking their families to this fair this weekend – and, find out why those who put it on – now at Oaks Amusement Park – say that it’s a ‘labor of love’ …

Riding the “Oaks Park Limited” railroad around the park is a good way to take in the Multnomah County Fair.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Around the country, it’s a tradition to attend the local county fair. It’s been a tradition in Multnomah County since 1906.

What many don’t know is the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners “washed their hands” of the fair in 1994 – apparently hoping it would disappear, unnoticed.

But, folks who say they’ve got “county fair in their blood” have kept it alive.

It moved from place to place, until a few years ago, when it found a home at historic, non-profit Oaks Amusement Park.

Showing off her blue ribbon arrangement of lilies floral department is Carole Schuldt.

“It’s been run by our organization, the Friends of Multnomah County Fair, since the County refused to operate or support it,” commented the treasurer, Lillian Adams, as the first day of the fair got underway on Saturday, May 26 and continued through Memorial Day.

“I’m 88 years old,” confessed Adams, “I started in the fair when I was nine years old.  Many of us, on our board of directors, started as 4-H people; we’ve been involved with the fair all of their lives. I guess it’s something that ‘gets in your blood’.”

It’s the work of Friends of Multnomah County Fair volunteers, like Manager Cheryl Jones, Treasurer Lillian Adams, and board member Mary Trupp, that keep this family-oriented tradition alive and well.

The combination of the clean, safe and low-price family carnival atmosphere provided by Oaks Amusement Park compliments the fair, Adams said. “This is a place and time when families can come together and have a great time. And, the county fair probably wouldn’t exist without the support of Oaks Park.”

In addition to the many fun attractions – such as the petting zoo, pony rides, pig races, floral, art, and photography exhibitions – Adams grinned, “We’re just thrilled to welcome back the Multnomah County 4-H members to the fair.”

That’s because Multnomah County withdrew its support from the 4-H program also. We visited with OSU 4-H Extension faculty-member for Multnomah County, Maureen Hosty, who exclaimed, “We’re back! We’re slowly rebuilding our program, after it was dormant for five years.”

East Portland 4-H member Ruth Reneauer, who is 7, shows and tells about the chickens her group is raising.

It’s back, but still without county support. Even though the program is called “Multnomah County 4-H”, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners still does not support it. “We have other local partners,” explained Hosty, “including the Portland Public Schools and the Metro Regional Government. We have 12 clubs, but also have programs in 20 schools right here within Multnomah County.”

4-H isn’t just about learning to farm, Hosty said. “The value of having 4-H in society is that it provides kids with the skills and knowledge they need to become contributing members of society. The projects in which they’re involved help them learn skills. It helps them develop ‘head, hand, heart, and health’ – which is the meaning of ‘4-H’.”

About her own 4-H club, East Portland student Ruth Reneauer, age 7, told us, “I really like it because we make new things, and learn about a lot of things. We raised these chickens!”

Christy Conant helps little Zelia see how baby pigs eat their lunch.

The fair set attendance records on May 26, its opening day. Families roamed the ground watching the “Alaskan Pig Races”, listening to music, watching dance troupes, enjoying inexpensive “fair food” treats – and of course, riding the amusement rides.

Our 2012 Multnomah County Fair Photo Album

These kids proudly off the balloon animals made by magician and balloon artist Professor Bamboozle.

Carlie Durrah, and her sister Caitlin, get a kick out of seeing – and feeding – these big woolly sheep.

Audiences cheer on these little porkers from “All-Alaskan Pig Races” as they gallop their bacon around the track.

In the popular Oregon Dairy Women trailer, Marion County Princess Ambassador Kaitie Brawley serves up another sundae.

Thrilled to take a really BIG slide are sisters Jenna and Riley Greenleaf.

Walk on water? Almost anyone can try, in these “big bubbles”.

Kids of all ages get a kick riding the Oaks Park Roller Coaster.

By the way, Oaks Amusement Park opens for all seven days a week when school’s out. It’s located just north of the foot of SE Spokane Street, at the Willamette River’s east bank. The official address is 7805 SE Oaks Park Way. For more information, see their website: CLICK HERE.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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