Multnomah County Fair thrives at the Oaks

Things looked pretty dreary when it rained the first day, but when the sun came out – wow! See why folks came from all over three counties to enjoy a county fair that’s NOT put on by the County …

Yes, there are animals on display at the 2010 Multnomah County Fair! Michelle Spencer holds her big bunny named Freedom – an English lop rabbit.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
A steady downpour didn’t slow down volunteers as they set up for the 104th Annual Multnomah County Fair. This historic annual event took place over the Memorial Day weekend at Oaks Amusement Park.

The opening day of the three-day event, Saturday, May 29, didn’t look much better – as a few hearty fairgoers picked their way among the puddles.

Busily judging floral entries at the fair at Oaks Park are Jeanette Benson, Martha Galash, and Mary Clinton.

But, the sunshine that broke through the clouds on the following two days attracted record crowds to the annual event – long abandoned by the County, but kept vital by volunteers such as Lillian Adams, selected by the volunteer Board of the fair as its spokesperson.

Multnomah County Fair spokesperson Lillian Adams pitches in to keep the fair going, because “Fairs are fun!”

‘Nomadic’ fair finds good home
“I’ve been a volunteer with the Multnomah County Fair for about 30 years,” Adams reflected, from the porch of the Dance Pavilion. “It seems odd to be a county fair that’s not sponsored or supported by a county. After Multnomah County stopped supporting it, we could no longer have it at the Expo Center, and we moved around until we found a great ‘home’ here at Oaks Park.”

Instead of withering away, the volunteer-run fair has grown every year, Adams smiled – since being welcomed by the non-profit, and equally historic, Oaks Amusement Park.

Although the fair departments are given a small honorarium – they’re in charge of setting up and administering all of the various departments’ displays and competitions – the fair runs with the aid of a cadre of volunteers, Adams explained.

Both East Portland backyard gardeners, Duane Duvall holds a native Iris, and Larry Smith shows off his blue-ribbon winning “Red Sails” lettuce.

Stirring things up at this year’s Multnomah County Fair is Rachel Palmer with Yakisoba Grill.

Traveling from Wenatchee, Washington, to judge the show, ARBA certified judge Cliff Dick examines one of the dozens of rabbits brought in by breeders from all over the Pacific Northwest.

All for the fun of it
“The ‘Friends of Multnomah County Fair’ pitch in to keep it going, for one very good reason,” Adams said. “Fairs are fun! We provide a true family event. With free admission, and interesting things for guests ranging from the very young to the older people, it makes this a wonderful, inexpensive family outing.”

Although not replete with farm livestock, the fair offered a major American Rabbit Breeder Association sanctioned show, a dog show and parade, a momma pig and her piglets, and pony rides. And again, this year, the “Dock Dogs” provided family fun as canines dashed off the end of a ramp and splashed into a pool in pursuit of rubber duck.

The Dock Dogs jump and splash, but their humans win the prizes.

Vendor Crista Ruth offers freshly-made strawberry lemonade at the fair.

Part educational and part entertainment, the Franklin High School Robotics team showed off their mighty machines, and gave visitors the opportunity to “drive” them.

The “World Famous Prof. Bamboozle Magic Show” entertained families throughout the day, as did a Guitar Hero contest, and singing and dancing shows on various stages around the fair.

Both hailing from Sellwood, Sophia Yigzaw and Hadley Harmon dance on stage with County Queens from around the region.

“Beam me up!” Adam Krug takes a rocket ship ride.

All of Oaks Park’s modestly-priced thrill rides were operating – giving the event the feeling of the genuine County Fair that it is.

And, many visitors stopped by the exhibits on display in the Oaks Dance Pavilion – where early-season vegetables and flowers, as well as crafts and foods, were on display after judging.

What’s ahead for this rustic event? “We’re already looking forward to next year,” Adams proclaimed. “We have new plans for next year’s fair. It’s going to be even bigger and better.”

To get involved, or contribute financially to this worthy non-profit organization, visit their website: CLICK HERE.

Oaks Park’s spectacular rides provide grown-up thrills at reasonable prices.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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