The Lents fair that almost wasn’t

See how intrepid volunteers beat the odds, ending up hosting a great family event they call the Lents Street Fair – on a vacant lot …

Hundreds of people come out to celebrate their neighborhood in Lents, at this year’s fair.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

The Lents Founders Day Celebration is a longtime tradition in this outer East Portland neighborhood – one of the first outliers to be annexed into the City of Portland, back in 1912.

This traditional Sunday event featured a parade, followed by a celebration – later ending with a Movie in the Park presentation – held in Lents Park.

After interest waned in Founders Day, neighborhood leaders and volunteers brought back a summer celebration as the Ramona Street Fair in 2010, celebrating the TriMet MAX Green Line, opened in September, 2009.

A focus of attention was the Lents Neighborhood History display curated by longtime Lents resident Ray Hites (standing far left).

In 2014, the event metamorphosed into the Lents Street Fair, complete with parade.

But, the 2016 Lents Street Fair wasn’t actually held on the street, as it was in past years, but instead on the vacant lots once occupied by the “Famous Belmont Goats” – and the former location of the Lents International Farmers Market – at the corner of SE 92nd Avenue and Foster Road.

Lents Neighborhood Association Chair Judy Low – as well as Mary Oxford, organizer Amanda Gerace, and Lents Neighborhood Association Public Safety Chair Robert Schultz  — say they’re pleased at the turnout.

We’ve had so many challenges getting the street fair going this year,” remarked the organizer, Amanda Gerace.

“In fact, this year, it was a very difficult journey, because it’s hard to find people who have the time and energy to donate to this effort,” Gerace told East Portland News.

-4 Marilee and Michael of the Git-Rights Gospel Revue musically entertain.

“But we gathered a group of volunteers who really worked hard to get this together, and it just can’t happen without volunteers.”

As she looked out over the vacant lots where the “fair village” was set up, hundreds of people – including many families – looked at exhibits set up by nonprofit organizations, government agencies, businesses, and vendors.

“Actually, not having it located on a street made it a lot easier, because we didn’t have to close off the road, get all those permits, and barricade everything off,” Gerace commented. “This has a nice flow to it; the layout is working well.”

In the beer garden area, hosted by Zoiglhaus Brewing Company, visitors talk with exhibitors.

In the two areas, one of which was cordoned off as a beer garden, a total of 42 exhibitors displayed at the fair.

It’s worth the effort, Gerace smiled. “We do it to see our neighbors come out to celebrate our community, to bring our community together, and to have a place for people to enjoy themselves.”

Sometimes the Lents neighborhood struggles with negative aspects and images, ranging from abandoned houses to the side-effects of the Springwater Corridor Trail, the organizer said. “The street fair is, I believe, one of the really strong and positive aspects of our neighborhood.

“The good things that come from an event like this are that it brings the community together and gives us pride in our neighborhood, so we can feel good that we have good things happening here,” Gerace concluded.

Jonah Willbach and Margaret Kearns again organize the Lents Chicken Beauty Contest.

After the first successful outing, Jonah Willbach and Margaret Kearns again organized and hosted the Lents Chicken Beauty Contest.

“We heard from the organizer the fair that we were one of the biggest draws, which makes us feel good,” Willbach said “This event is all good for the Lents community.”

Before the fowl loveliness competition hatched last year, it almost didn’t take place, because those who had fostered the idea let it drop. “We were disappointed to see that that wasn’t going to take place simply because that person decided they couldn’t do it,” Willbach recalled. “Our co-organizer, Maggie, was happy to get involved.”

Visitors vote for their favored fowl at the Lents Chicken Beauty Contest.

This year, the Lents Chicken Beauty Contest featured 16 entrants. Visitors to the fair gazed at all the birds, and then voted for their favorite.

“The winner gets a beautiful trophy, and gifts from our sponsor, Foster Feed, who presents major prizes like a 15 pound bag of organic chicken feed, and other goodies like chicken treats – which they can eat. We also had made for us a beautiful trophy. It’s larger this year than last.”

Here’s “Snazzy”, the winner of the 2016 Lents Chicken Beauty Contest. Photo by Lents Chicken Beauty Contest

The winner was “Snazzy”. Second place went to “Grace-Mary”, an “Easter Egger” with rust and silver feathers; Honorable Mention went to “Sapphire”, the zebra-striped Barred Plymouth Rock.

See all of the contestants at their official website: CLICK HERE.

By the end of the event, an estimated 800 people had visited this year’s Lents Street Fair – making the effort feel worthwhile to its organizers.

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland

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