Oaks Amusement Park celebrates 103rd anniversary

Why is this ‘stationary carnival’ more popular than ever? Find out what we learned, when we stopped by their birthday party …

Erica, Alexia, and Kayla (she’s also having a birthday today!) Jimenez are here enjoying a slice of Oaks Amusement Park 103rd Anniversary cake.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
For people who live in most cities of our size, the only time folks can take a spin on thrill rides, play midway games, and see live entertainment, is when a carnival comes to town.

Fortunately, Portlanders can “get away from it all” all summer long – as they have for 103 years – at historic Oaks Amusement Park.

Emily McKay, promotions manager, cuts cake for guests visiting them during their 103rd anniversary celebration.

Celebrating 103 years of fun
Built by the Oregon Water Power and Railway Company, it opened on May 30, 1905 – making it one of the oldest continuously-operating amusement parks in the nation.

“It’s important to celebrate Oaks Park,” said Emily McKay, promotions manager for the park, “because coming here to play has been a Portland tradition since the days of the horse and buggy. When you come here, you get to see what Portlanders experienced so many years ago.”

Amusement rides – old classics and new state-of-the-art ones – stand side-by-side at the park.

When we visited during the park’s anniversary celebration on June 7, we were reminded how well it has blended the thrills of today’s high-tech rides with the more genteel pastimes of yesteryear.

As we strolled around the midway, McKay pointed out, “We’ve taken care of our classic rides; some of them have entertained guests for more than 60 years. And, we’ve added new, exciting rides for the brave.”

This historic roller-coaster still thrills Oaks Park patrons.

Acres of recreation
The 44-acre park is more than just rides, McKay reminded us. “The roller skating rink, the largest in the country, has been here for 102 years. It’s the last rink in the world to feature live music played on a Wurlitzer theater organ. Today’s kids may not know it, but their great-grandparents may have enjoyed the same rink.”

In addition to hosting events such as the Multnomah County Fair, and Oktoberfest, the park offers special areas in which many companies, organizations, and large families host catered picnics under the oak trees for which the park is named. And Oaks Park sells a wide variety of reasonably- priced “fair fare” to hungry carnival goers.

And, an area overlooking the Willamette River provides picnic tables dedicated to families who bring their own basket lunch.

Kids of all ages can take a leisurely spin around the park on the miniature railroad train.

Expecting a bustling summer season
With fuel prices soaring, McKay said they expect many people will stay in town. “There are no gate admission, parking, or picnic fees. We want folks to come have a safe, wholesome day with their families.”

We asked McKay why she seemed so enthusiastic about her job. “I’m in love with it; I’ve come here almost every day since I was six years old. I’m sure your family will love it too.”

Oaks Amusement Park, once a for-profit family business, but today in the permanent care of a nonprofit corporation established to benefit Portland by its former owners,  is located near the foot of S.E. Tacoma Street.

They’re open Tuesday through Sunday. For more information, we’ll take you to their web site of you CLICK HERE!

Some of the Oaks Park rides – like this one – are not for the timid.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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