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For 111 years, the Multnomah County Fair has been part of our lives; for the last two decades, it has been so without any help from the county itself

DAVID F. ASHTON - In the fairs Exhibit Hall, Jennifer Vasstabacchi, of the Creston-Kenilworth neighborhood, showed her prize-winning flower in the perennial category - a purple Lupine. The multitude of families coming to opening day of the 111th Multnomah County Fair on May 27th was a good indication that historic, nonprofit Oaks Amusement Park in Sellwood really is the ideal location for the county fair – which runs over Memorial Day weekends annually – this year, that was May 27th through the 29th.

The historic fair continues to thrive, and grow in popularity, even it was abandoned by the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners in the 1990s. It continues, thanks to a group of dedicated volunteers.

The Multnomah County 4-H Clubs' exhibits have had a steadily growing presence at the fair, even though a while back Multnomah County abandoned 4-H also. But the OSU Extension Service stepped in and revived the program here.

"Exhibits and activities of 4-H Clubs are bigger and better this year," commented Oregon State University (OSU) Extension 4-H Faculty Maureen Hosty. "We're celebrating the final projects that our club members have been working on all year – here to be exhibited, judged, and evaluated. In addition to recognizing them for the efforts, it's also a time when kids and their families can have fun here at the fair."

On display, and being judged, were animal projects – including chickens, rabbits, and guinea pigs and goats. "And, other 4-H members brought their photography, cooking, sewing, and rocketry projects here as well," Hosty pointed out.

"It's really true, 4-H is the original STEM program, starting more than 100 years ago – and the Portland 4-H is the first urban program in the entire nation, started in 1922," Hosty observed. "Because of our affiliation with Oregon State University, our 4-H clubs are keeping up with today's technology."

"This fair continues to be put on by the nonprofit organization called Friends of Multnomah County Fair, as it has been for years; we are volunteers who are keeping the 111-year tradition of this wonderful fair going," smiled Board President Larry Smith.

"In addition to supporting the excellent youth development programs of 4-H clubs, there is something for every age or interest at the fair," Smith remarked.

New this year, Smith pointed out, is the "Art in the Park" pavilion, featuring local crafters and artists who demonstrate, exhibit, and sell their unique offerings.

"And, we have something that the other big event in town doesn't have – the opportunity to ride a camel!" Smith exclaimed.

The coordination of two entertainment stages, commercial vendors, food purveyors, and the arts and crafts exhibits in the Oaks' Dance Pavilion, is done by a volunteer Board – just six members, and six exhibit superintendents. As many as 50 additional volunteers do come in to help operate the fair during its three day run, however.

Smith said he's had a life-long love of the fair. "Abut 50 years ago, I participated in my first fair, as an exhibitor," Smith explained. "Someone needs to keep the tradition alive, I decided I'd be a person to help out."

Finally, it wouldn't be a fair without amusement rides for the little kids, thrill rides for the bold – and fun for everyone – on the midway of Oaks Amusement Park.

"The Multnomah County Fair, and Oaks Amusement Park combined make this a great way to spend a day on Memorial Day weekend," Smith grinned. And admission to the fair is free, too. If you missed it this time – catch it next year at Oaks Park, over Memorial Day weekend! Always plenty of free parking.

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