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Queens on parade

In celebration of 50 years of the Old Time Fair, past queens and princesses will be honored at this weekend's festivities
by: Vern Uyetake, 
Past Old Time Fair queens and princesses catch up at a luncheon in West Linn last week. From left, Cheryl (Savage) Larson, 1965; Bev (Kaiser) Horn, 1960; Virginia (Ederlin) Fritchie, 1966; Kasi (Boettcher) Pankey, 1989; Kathy (Reinke) Mitchell, 1962; Kellie (Ryan) La Follette, 1976; Andrea Taylor, 2003. Front row: Taylor Bensen, 2005; Alissa Greenberg, 2005.

Butterflies begin to stir within the stomachs of a handful of teen-age girls. Skydivers take flight and soon descend in Willamette Park with the results for the Old Time Fair coronation ceremony.

The fair court princesses wait excitedly, in anticipation of the announcement - which one of them will be named queen?

This decades-old ritual continues this Friday evening, as the Old Time Fair celebrates 50 years of tradition. Over the years the community event has touched the lives of many - residents, attendees and participants alike. And in honor of the fair's 50th, princesses and queens from years past will celebrate among friends.

A luncheon and tea at the West Linn Adult Community Center last week gathered fair courts from the past to reminisce about everything from girl talk to community service and tradition. One former-queen shared a memorable experience from the year her parade float honored the Willamette Meteorite.

'The float was a makeshift rocket ship and I remember thinking, 'Oh my gosh. This is unstable,'' said Kathy (Reinke) Mitchell, 1962 queen of the space-age parade. 'I probably had a half-frightened smile.'

Mitchell will attend the parade this year alongside her five grandchildren. Many of the past court members have been attending the parade for years with family.

'I used to always go and ride my horse with my husband and two kids before the third (child was born). You used to walk through and know everybody. Now it's much bigger,' said Bev (Kaiser) Horn, 1960 princess.

Even though the fair has grown throughout the years, the fair court has held close to tradition. Each year a handful of incoming freshmen high school girls serve with the queen to represent West Linn in several Metro-area parades and events.

The girls spend the summer months bonding over outings and participating year-round in holiday events.

'(The fair court) helps with everything in the future with leadership. It gives you confidence that carries over in everything you do. It gave me the encouragement to try,' the Virginia (Ederlin) Fritchie, 1966 queen. 'You meet people in the community you otherwise wouldn't.'

Even the first queen said she felt that sense of togetherness.

'It's like a family reunion,' said Bonnie (Hunt) Greenman, queen from 1959, the first year of the fair court. 'I'm one of those old fashioned (people) that thinks community is so important. You should celebrate your community.'

And the West Linn community is set to celebrate this weekend as residents gather among carnival rides, food, dancing, fireworks, entertainment and games.

'Our year the princesses and the queen did the dunk tank. It was hot outside so it was actually nice,' said Megan Hochstetler, princess in 1997. 'It was a fun memory.'

On Friday, reigning queen Alissa Greenberg will give up her throne to either Emma Jo Sipe, Mallory Griffith, Rosa Bhutarak, Isabel Valentine, Alexandra Mink, Stephanie Kruger or Kelsey Bradshaw - the 2006 fair court. And she encourages the princesses to go with the flow of things.

'Be prepared for change all the time. Things are always changing,' said Greenberg. 'Be patient. At parades there's a lot of waiting. Be flexible, amiable and friendly.'

As the princesses find out who the new queen is on Friday evening, everyone is invited to share in this weekend's good fun, laughs and celebration of a city that's special to many.

'As the community changes it's just automatic to have things change. But at the (West Linn fair) there has been strong effort to maintain tradition,' said Mark Jorgenson, fair commission chair who will escort Greenberg during the coronation ceremony. 'It keeps the effort in focus of why we do this. We realize how many people have remained involved in the community. And that is part of the tradition we want to keep going.'

For more information on the fair and a complete schedule of activities, see the special Old Time Fair pullout section in this edition of the Tidings.