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Dee Denton, Joan Sappington and Virginia Campbell played key roles in creating Lake Oswego's iconic gathering, which is now in its 53rd year



REVIEW FILE PHOTO - Festival artwork is displayed in 1963 by Mrs. Davis Jackson (from left), Mrs. Frank Manglesdorf and Mrs. Hull Dolson. In a sign of the times, The Review did not refer to the women by their own first names. In just a few days, Lake Oswego’s 53rd-annual Festival of the Arts will fill the Lakewood Center and nearby George Rogers Park with art, music, theater and dance. There will be hands-on activities, demonstrations and educational displays, too — and 25,000 people are expected to attend the iconic event from June 24-26.

But Dee Denton remembers when the festival was nothing more than an intriguing idea, and Joan Sappington and Virginia Campbell can recall key moments that helped to make the summer gathering what it is today.

Here are some of their memories from the festival’s early days:

DENTONFROM DEE DENTON: In 1963, I had just become executive director of the Chamber of Commerce. Mary Goodall and Marion Munger, founders of the Lake Oswego Art Guild, walked into my office and suggested having a citywide art festival.

“We can get the artists if you can get the Chamber businesses to support it,” they said. So I went to my Chamber board, and they loved the idea. I had such tremendous support from them.

Art was displayed for TWO WEEKS at the end of May in various Lake Oswego/Lake Grove businesses, such as Kingsbury’s, Wizer’s, Dee Thomason Ford. The first Open Show was held in an old telephone warehouse at First Street and A Avenue.

The second year, the festival became the Arts & Flowers Festival because all the garden clubs were involved, holding a big flower extravaganza at the Armory. There was also a children’s exhibit headed by Deanne Clinkscales, which was on display at the Shon-Tay building in Lake Grove that was owned by Clinkscales.

Sometime in the 1980s, the Arts & Flowers Festival officially changed its name again to the Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts. The festival was growing every year. We moved it to Lakewood School, where it experienced another growth spurt. Finally, it became unmanageable for the Chamber and Lakewood Center for the Arts took it over.

I remember the year the geodesic dome was stolen. The National Guard assembled the dome — very carefully, according to an exact plan — for us in Lakewood’s parking lot, where it was displayed. The Guard also disassembled the dome and packed the pieces in a large container and left it in the parking to be picked up the next day. But when the freight company arrived, the container was nowhere to be found. Gone. No trace of it anywhere.

I also remember the year we almost didn’t have a Special Exhibit. A week before opening day, our major exhibit had not arrived from Fiji — and probably wasn’t going to. Luckily, one of my board members knew that Jim Bosley had produced a series of mosaics from miniature pieces of glass that were inspired by his visits to Fiji from 1985-1995. It was Boz to the rescue as the festival’s featured artist.

PHOTO COURTESY OF LAKE OSWEGO PUBLIC LIBRARY - Festival organizers in 1964 included Dee Thomason (from left), Mary Goodall, an unidentified gentleman, Marion Munger and John Herbst Jr. FROM JOAN SAPPINGTON: I’ve been involved with the festival for over 40 years, 15 as executive director. As the city has grown and the passion has grown, the festival has grown, too, because we’ve had wonderfully energetic people.

I remember the first Special Exhibit in 1990. Lake Oswego had become a sister city with Mordialloc, a suburb of Melbourne in Australia. The Aussies wanted to know if Lake Oswego would be interested in hosting Australia’s world-prestigious exhibit of Aboriginal art. The answer was something along the lines of, “Jumping anaconda! Yes!”

The Festival has not been the same since. The Aboriginal art exhibit was a huge success and was the start of our featuring other art forms and new genres of enormous variety, like Mexican masks, colored pencils, art from New Guinea, miniatures, photography, stone carvings, even comics.

My motto has always been: “I want people to see the very best in the art world.” The festival makes that happen.

PHOTO COURTESY OF LAKE OSWEGO PUBLIC LIBRARY - Chamber of Commerce board members put on a show to advertise the 1965 festival. Most of the group is unidentified, but that's Shirley Gladsby at far left, June Kroft at far right and Deanne Clinkscales in the tuxedo. FROM VIRGINIA CAMPBELL: I arranged that first Special Exhibit in 1990 of Aboriginal art. The success of that exhibit proved to be the inspiration that led to the Special Exhibit becoming a permanent feature of our festival. I also curated the Open Show during the festival’s infancy in the 1960s.

I remember a particular exhibit oddity traceable to my late husband Herald. He filled out an artist entry form and placed a frame around rungs of a climbing apparatus in the Lakewood School gym, where the Open Show was held. He set the price for the artwork at $2,000. As I was inspecting the art, a woman came up behind me and said, “I don’t think it’s worth that much.”

I’m 104 and still passionate about art — especially Origami.

“From Our Vault” is written by Nancy Dunis for the Oswego Heritage Council, using materials she’s found in the council’s archives; look for it on the third Thursday of every month. Have something you’d like to add to the vault? Leave a message for Dunis at 503-635-6373 or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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