Multnomah County Fair thrives at Historic Oaks Park

One look at this story, and you’ll see lots of great photos of how thousands enjoyed opening day of this 3-day event, now put on by volunteers, and hosted by Portland’s nonprofit family fun park …

Apollo Dolkas gets back to the Multnomah County Fair’s “roots”, as he plays in the Corn Bin.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Saturday, May 28, the parking lot was filling up at historic, nonprofit Oaks Amusement Park – a good sign that families got the word that the 105th Multnomah County Fair is “still alive and kickin’,” as Rick Paul, the President of Friends of Multnomah County Fair, put it.

“Even though we haven’t been supported by the Multnomah County government since 1993,”  Paul said as he looked over the Dance Pavilion, packed with craft exhibits, “Volunteers have kept the Fair alive, because it’s a ‘celebration of our people’ and their talents.

Rick Paul, President of the Friends of the Multnomah County Fair, is flanked by young ladies representing the International Order of Rainbow for Girls – Mackenzie Holm, and Jordan Winters.

The Oaks Park Dance Pavilion is filled with County Fair garden, arts, and craft exhibits, all vying for the coveted blue ribbon.

“We have fourteen more entrants than last year – a total of 40 exhibits in the needlecraft division! The photography section is growing, as are all of our other craft divisions at the Fair,” Paul pointed out. “It proves there’s a great amount of talent in Multnomah County; every year we get more people displaying and better quality entries.”

Even though county fairs are traditionally held at summer’s end, the end-of-spring Multnomah County Fair attracts people by the thousands, Paul grinned. “I think this is because we’re all about families. That’s why Oaks Amusement Park is an ideal location for it – they, too, are family-friendly, and they levy no parking or entry fees.  Families can come here and enjoy a wonderful day without spending a dime, if they choose.”

While in the photographic exhibition, Roslyn Huard and Sarah Middleton say they traveled from Beaverton to attend the 2011 Multnomah County Fair.

The assistant to the Floral Superintendent of the Floral Department, Angela Swonger, places ribbons on entries, following the judging.

Professor Bamboozle shows off his “Balloonery Loonery” to pleased young fairgoer Jack Skelton.

Thomas Hubel, just ending his sophomore year at Franklin High School, and a member of First Robotics Team 1432, “Mahr’s Metal Beavers”, demonstrates their robots to interest kids in joining their club.

In the gazebo, dance troupes were tapping and twirling their way into fairgoer’s hearts; on stage, live music played. New this year were pig races and pedal-powered tractor-pull competitions. Returning this year were Professor Bamboozle’s Magic Show, the barnyard play area, and lots of vendors – pitching everything from house siding to delicious, fresh-cooked food.

The Fair is produced with an astoundingly tiny annual budget of only $6,800, Paul informed. “Eight volunteers work year-around; our six arts-and-crafts superintendents are also full-time volunteers. And, another 25 volunteers come to help staff the Fair. Without their dedicated effort and support – and the contributions of our sponsors – there would be no Fair.”

This band, “Rocket Ride”, rocks out for an appreciative audience at the Fair.

These little hoofers, with Encore Performing Arts Center, kick up their heels to Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B.

Demonstrator Charles Countryman keeps his audience laughing as he demonstrates his “Kitchen Craft” line of cooking products.

Mary Beth Coffey, Oaks Amusement Park’s Public Relations Manager, looked happy as she caught up with us while we took in the sights. “When you have two nonprofit organizations – like us, and the Friends of Multnomah County Fair – working together to put on this annual family event, everyone wins.”

Coffey added that, even after the three-day Fair closes at the end of Memorial Day, Oaks Amusement Park is looking forward to a great summer, providing inexpensive family fun. “Come back and see our new fun and challenging family mini-golf course, opening in June,” she said.

Roller Coaster riders Orson Lybbert and James Huard are having a great time.

“Big kids” get a thrill riding Oaks Amusement Park’s “Screaming Eagle”.

Two Oregon Dairy Women “Dairy Princess-Ambassadors” Kara Hansen from Lane County and Kristen Kaste from Tillamook County dish up cool treats for fairgoers.

After touring the many Fair exhibits, many families took advantage of the inexpensive wristbands that admitted them to a full afternoon of Oaks Park’s thrilling carnival rides – including the scaled-down ones for the little tykes. Huge ice cream cones from the “Oregon Dairy Women” stand added to the delightful Memorial Day weekend afternoon.

With our photos taken and interviews done, we stopped for our favorite fast-food treat at the Oaks on our out to file this story – a heaping serving of hot seasoned curly-fries – still just two bucks.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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