Slug races, mole contest give Corbetts Fun Fest hometown feel, while drawing a crowd of thousands this Independence Day

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: MELISSA ADELE HASKIN - Grand Marshal Woody Davis takes the stage.

Slow and steady," Aaron Redinger called to his 7-year-old daughter, Samantha, as she hoisted herself onto the first foothold of the towering rock wall. Her mother countered, "Go for it, baby!" With a face of scrunched concentration, Samantha climbed several feet before slowly rappelling back to the grass.

Had Samantha made it to the top of the stand-alone rock wall centered in the field behind Corbett Grade School, she would have seen most of the Corbett Fun Fest - dizzying in its enormity.

Sprawled across the field this July 4 were bouncy houses and blow-up slides, tents of trinkets and food, and a lawn full of picnic blankets and ice chests. From face painting to raffles for a night's stay in Newport, there was something for every age.

"It was so amazing last year, I wanted to bring everyone this year," said Karen Dion, 69, of Portland.

Action-packed day

Many traditions made for a full day at the Fun Fest. Hot dogs, hamburgers, cotton candy, snow cones and elephant ears made appearances. Children smiled as balloon tigers were made. There was a talent show, a spelling bee and live music.

The mole event - where people bring in moles they've caught throughout the year and enter them into several contests - had fewer entries this year.

"As long as I have eager participants and the event gets a lot of attention from the crowd, the contest is a success," said Karen Schaaf, the mole contest organizer. Paul Peek brought in the biggest mole at 6.085 ounces. He also raked in the award for most moles caught: 14.

Longtime Corbett resident Woody Davis was grand marshal of the parade. Davis has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. It's a disease that affects voluntary muscle movement and inevitably leads to death.

His sister, Pam Jacobs, said that hearing the crowd cheering during the parade was heartwarming.

"There was so much love coming off the crowd," she said.

Slug races

This year, slug races were introduced. Yes, you read that right, racing slugs - as in the slugs in your garden plopped on a racing track. Kids gathered around the plastic racing mat as slugs slithered every which way, mindless of the finishing line: any point on a circular ring.

Several minutes into the 12-minute race, a little one asked, "Did he die?" Answered another, "I think he did!" Out went a hand, poking the slug, causing it to shrivel. It was alive.

Ann Marquez's snail placed first; her son Ryan Schmidt came in second. "It was great to see him have fun," she said, adding that she really wanted him to win.

While everyone was excited about the first- and second-place winners, Manoj Rajesh, 6, sat intently staring at his sand-colored slug. He looked up at his parents and then smooshed his face inches from his racer. Its antennas crossed the line. Third place. Rajesh grinned, putting his thumb up.

Event-goers appreciated the day for different reasons. "It's a day to celebrate with friends and family," said William Green, 36.

Kristen Schultz, 41, of Portland said that after 9/11 "it's important to celebrate and embrace the freedom we have."

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