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2013 Multnomah County Fair gets a sunny start at Oaks Park

by: DAVID F. ASHTON - Xavier Watson, from the Mt. Tabor Neighborhood, meets animal friends who are ready for a handout, at the petting zoo.Volunteers who work all year long to keep the tradition alive were favored with sunny skies when the 107th annual Multnomah County Fair opened its three-day run on Saturday, May 25.

In the Dance Pavilion at the fair’s relatively new home, the nonprofit, historic Oaks Amusement Park, Multnomah County Fair Manager Cheryl Jones was all smiles as she looked out the door at walkways filled with exhibitors – and crowded with families.

“This year, we have many new exhibitors and vendors,” Jones told THE BEE. “Our volunteer supervisors for the art, crafts, foods and garden, needlecraft, and photography departments all have great entries in this building.”

Outside, the “Walk on the Wild Side” exhibit – barnyard fun, with pony rides and a petting zoo – appeared to be a real hit. And, in addition to the high quality, low-price treats sold by Oaks Amusement Park, specialty food venders abounded this year. Hickory Hog’s BBQ was turning out huge toothsome sandwiches with so much meat, it hid the bread.

But, most important to her, Jones said, was that “We have a big turnout from 4-H groups! 4-H (“Head-Heart-Hands-Health”) groups are very important for our children.”

People who visited the 4-H area learned that the organization revolutionized how science was taught outside of the classroom more than 100 years ago. “4-H was also one of the first organizations in America that taught young people leadership skills, and how to positively impact their communities,” commented the poultry show judge, Michelle Koeppe. “The clubs cover a wide range of skills, ranging from agricultural to home craft, and future technology skills too, including robotics.”

But, as at all good fairs, many families were focusing of fun activities, and the presence of the fair at The Oaks made that easy. Gales of laughter erupted from Prof. Bamboozle’s World Famous Magic Show stage; other attendees listened to live music, and many rode the many amusement rides on the midway.

“I guess you could say, this fair has just about everything,” Jones remarked – “Except for the support of the Multnomah County Commission.”

The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners washed their hands of the fair in 1994, and it’s been supported by a core group of about a dozen volunteers – and as many as 40 more who arrive to actually run the fair.

“We are self-sufficient, and I must say, we’re pretty proud of it,” Jones added. “We're proud that we can still keep going. We thank our hosts at Oaks Amusement Park for providing such a beautiful space for this great family event.”