50 years of Old Time Fair history
- West Linn Tidings - Features
This weekend the West Linn Old Time Fair turns 50 and celebrates its golden jubilee.
And though this grand fair may be hitting the half century mark, it isn't showing any signs of a slowing down.
In the fair's first 50 years, it has expanded from one to three days, and gone through at least four name changes including: West Linn Community Fair, West Linn's Annual Country Fair, West Linn's Old Fashioned Fair and West Linn's Old Time Fair.
Researching the history of the fair in the archives of the West Linn Tidings and the Lake Oswego Review, we found that the fair has changed with the times. Social trends may have transformed the activities of the fair from flower show to sharp-shooting contest, to rodeo to today's lumberjack exhibition. But one constant remains the same for each fair, and that is coming together to celebrate community.
The first articles found about the Fair were in the 1961 archives of the Lake Oswego Review, the Tidings didn't begin publishing until 1980. At the time, the big community festival was the Lake Oswego Water Festival. The scope of the Lake Oswego event easily overshadowed West Linn's fledgling fair. Pages of photos about the Lake Oswego Water Festival dominated these editions of the Review in late July and early August.
The first fair - 1957
According to an article from the West Linn Tidings in 1986, the first fair took place when several Willamette-area residents accepted an offer from the Clackamas County Grange, which said it would pay $10 to any group that would sponsor a local fair.
The West Linn Community Fair, as it was called in those days, drew about 700 people to a tent in the middle of the Willlamette Park. The fair ran one afternoon and evening, it included such events as a water skiing contest, horseshoe pitching and a game called midget ball - likely a baseball game. The parade and the crowning of the queen were absent from that first community fair. The first fair queen, Bonnie (Hunt) Greenman, was crowned in 1959, and no one is certain when the parade was added to the program.
The fair has drawn two statewide celebrities over the years. In 1960, Oregon Secretary of State Howell Appling Jr. presided over the coronation of Queen Ethel Clark. And four years later, Tom McCall was guest of honor at the coronation.
The West Linn Garden Club sponsors the floral and vegetable division of the fair. Judges are local residents who are flower and vegetable fanciers. Flower divisions include: dahlias, marigolds, pansies, zinnias, gladioli and sweet peas along with house plants and rare and unusual flowers. All kinds of vegetables will be received in the show. There will be a division for flower arrangements and a children's division.
A runaway auto careened down the hill into Willamette Park, striking three fairgoers and a horse. No one was seriously hurt.
The 10th annual West Linn Old Fashion Fair opened officially on Friday, Aug. 5, with Mayor Erwin Lange acting as Master of Ceremonies and skydivers revealing the name of the queen who presided over the three-day celebration.
Rodeo-type events were part of the celebration. The program included bareback riding, figure eight and barrel races.
The printed program bears this comment, 'Perhaps in some way this weekend of activity has brought you a few moments of pleasure and a chuckle here and there as you greeted old friends. Thank you so much for making it one of our much looked forward to activities of our community.'
Princess Cari Sagin, from Bolton Grade School, was crowned West Linn Fair Queen by Don McIntosh.
The fair included a performance by the Oregon Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps, which originated in West Linn in 1970.
Parachutists dropping from 7,500 feet up and free falling at 220 miles per hour for about 3,000 feet brought the names of this year's new queen to the fair.
The fair included a tug-of-war between West Linn and Oregon City VFW members. It also included a donkey baseball game. Sunday night the Fair also offered an old-time movie session featuring Charlie Chaplin in 'Pawnbroker' and Laurel and Hardy in 'Hog Wild.'
West Linn's annual Country Fair began and ended last weekend and was enjoyed by the largest gathering of people since its inception.
Princesses Kellie, Lynette, Robyn and Carolyn seemed to agree that poise, sincerity and personality would be the criteria for which this year's queen would be chosen.
'The most important part of all this was being a member of the court,' said one princess. 'As long as we stay close, it doesn't matter who becomes queen.'
Fair duties for the foursome begin after the Friday night coronation, when the new queen and her court will take the first dance to a rock 'n' roll band.
The fair included a fast draw exhibition with contestants matching speed and skill to pop balloons once the signal was given. How would Wild Bill Hickok have faired?
A Youth for Christ church ceremony was held on Sunday at Willamette Park's Fair Grounds. This was followed by a four wheel drive show, frog jumping contest, auction and a fashion show.
An estimated 10,000 people jammed Willamette Park for the 25th Anniversary of the West Linn Old Fashioned Fair. Heidi von Tagen of Wilsonville was crowned the 25th Anniversary Fair Queen.
Fair officials say it was probably the largest crowd in the fair's history. West Linn Fair board president Jerry McViker said the fair came off without many problems because of tighter security. The West Linn police had four officers on duty each day during the fair, at a cost of $2,237 to the city in overtime wages.
Fair board secretary Charlotte Swam estimated that the fair would earn about $3,000 profit for the year. She said the fair board normally earns about $2,500 on the event.
Four booths sold out of food, said Gayle Rutledge, West Linn Old Fashioned Fair Board president. 'That's never happened before. If this year's wasn't the biggest in the fair's 30-year history, it was probably the hungriest,' she said.
The parade included more than 100 entries. The West Linn High School class of 1956 returned to town to serve as the grand marshals of the fair parade. More than 100 of the 192-member class were in town for the event.
New events on the fair agenda include a Gong Show Talent contest and a beauty contest for men over 40.
The weather was hot, the river was cool and hundreds of Lion burgers sizzled on the grill during the 35th Old Fashioned Fair. An estimated 12,000 people attended the event.
Lori Dollar, whose grandfather was one of the fair's founders, received the queen's crown and traditional purple cape.
Three hundred people attended the Lion's pancake breakfast at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday. More than 75 units participated in the parade with Fitz's Restaurant winning the best overall prize. The theme of the parade was 'Neighborhoods make Our City Great.'
Local merchants sold nearly 4,000 tickets for goods, raising $1,900 for the fair.
Winners of the Old Fashioned Fair parade honors included: City Council trophy, Willamette Cove; Mayor's Trophy, Fair Court; Grand Marshal Trophy, Metro Washington Park Zoo calliope; Lion's Club Trophy, West Linn Parks and Recreation.
Ben Foster's 1912 Overland took the blue ribbon in the Fair's Antique Car Show. In the equestrian events, the Clackamas County Sheriff's Association earned a blue ribbon.
On a sad note Clem Dollar, a life-long resident, former city council member and West Linn Old Fashioned Fair organizer, died of cancer at his home one week prior to the fair.
Dollar served two terms on the West Linn City Council. Dollar Street was named after him. He was selected as the grand marshal of the 1987 West Linn Old Fashioned Fair Parade. He and his dog, Sammy, rode in his candy-apple red 1968 Plymouth convertible.
For the second year in a row, the West Linn Senior Community Group sponsored a yacht race Sunday on the Tualatin River. A total of 1,152 boats were dropped into the water from the Tualatin River Bridge. Sandi Cole's boat was the first to reach the Willamette River. She won a Columbia River cruise for four from Portland to Hood River. The race netted $1,200 which was earmarked for the senior center building fund.
Despite rain, the fair came off without a hitch, attracting between 12,000-13,000 area residents. It was also a banner year for fair booths - boasting 50 open-air market booths.
A rain shower on Sunday evening almost canceled a performance by the Clackamas County Band; but the show went on as planned.
Winners of the horseshoe throwing contest included: Terry Cuff, men's singles; Vicki Carlile, women's singles; Terry Cuff and Roy Cuff, men's doubles; Crystal and Toshi, women's doubles; Terry and Kathy Cuff, mixed doubles.
Sharon Weldon was the pinochle tournament winner.
Compiled by Tidings Publisher J. Brian Monihan