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Multnomah Days: tradition with a twist

Though jocularly known as Oregon’s "biggest little" parade, the Multnomah Days street festival, now a two-day event featuring fun, games and food, in addition to an ever-inflating parade lineup, is no joke.

Believe it or not, Multnomah Days 2013 will be the 105th such occasion.

“Multnomah Days is one of the oldest summer celebrations in Oregon,” said Multnomah Neighborhood Association Chairman Moses Ross. “It’s a real American tradition.”

It is a tradition, but not one that has resisted reincarnation.

“The parade has increased tenfold, as have the amount of vendors,” said Joan Steinbach, Multnomah Days organizer and co-owner of Multnomah Village Mainstay Thinker Toys. “There’s just no comparison how it’s changed.”

Steinbach cites the addition of a Kids Zone to the street festival in 2011 and an increasing number of people marching in the parade along with its original canine paw-ticipants as two of the myriad ways in which Multnomah Days has mutated from its initial iteration.

She added that although there has never been an entry fee, starting last year participants have been encouraged to donate money or food to local nonprofit Neighborhood House.

“It’s such a wonderful organization, which is nestled right here in the middle of the village,” Steinbach said. “It has an awareness about it and it helps people in our community and beyond, so it’s really a great organization to support.”

Though in many ways it has changed with the times, Multnomah Days has also held on to its hallmarks.

“We begin Multnomah Days with a community Pancake Breakfast sponsored by the SW Hills Kiwanis Club,” Ross said. “Afterward, we get events started with the biggest, littlest parade in Oregon, with over a hundred entries and groups joining in during the half-mile parade route going through the middle of our neighborhood, along Southwest Capitol Highway. Afterward, the streets remain closed to traffic so that local vendors and groups can have booths along the route along with live music and performance art throughout the day.”

But at Multnomah Days, the music starts with the parade. As in years past, The Beat Goes On Marching Band, an all-adult marching band, will go on marching in the 2013 parade, fresh from the Calgary Stampede Parade, where it took fifth place in the Senior Band division and performed for the Premier of Alberta.

“We wouldn’t miss Multnomah Days,” said TBGO Director Steve Tolopka. “The … crowd has a special vibe that makes this one of our absolute favorite events of the year. The parade is only a few blocks long, but we play a LOT of music because we’re having so much fun with people all along the route. We can’t wait to try out our Calgary tunes and see how the Village likes them.”

“Multnomah Days is such a popular event because of our unique neighborhood setting along with the warmth of our residents. People can feel that sincerity when they come to visit us,” Ros said. “That, and our parade … is just good old-fashioned, family-friendly fun.”

“It’s a really Southwest community tradition now,” Steinbach said. “I get people from all over Portland that go to many festivals and celebrations like this, and most say that this is their favorite. It’s really cool.”