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Multnomah County Fair still thrives at historic Oaks Park

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

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.

'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; each 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.'

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.'

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.

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.