Festival fails to disappoint
It's not every day that you see a pit bull dressed as Miss Piggy.
But there she was, in all her glory, sitting calmly among her canine competitors before the dog costume contest Thursday in Newberg. The annual tradition has become an integral part of the Old Fashioned Festival and exemplifies the festival's uniqueness.
This was my first time at the festival and it felt right that one of the first things I encountered was a gaggle of hilariously-dressed pups. It's the perfect kind of abstractly weird event to attend and it seemed like one of many opportunities for people from around town to come together for laughs and smiles.
Grins were wide and screams were audible at the midway near the costume contest, where a section of Renne Field was filled with rides and stands selling trinkets and fried food.
The food selection was relatively limited in this area, but that made sense considering the propensity for throwing it back up on one of the rides. Kids and adults were twisting and flying through the air, dropping fast and swinging about. Not exactly the best place for a full belly.
More extensive food options – along with plenty of other vendors and local presences – could be found at Memorial Park, where the main stage featured a variety of bands and performances throughout the weekend.
It was idle when I showed up to chow down, but one could imagine the folded chairs packed with fans of cover bands, traditional cultural dances and – of course – the coronation of the festival court.
After much indecision, I settled on tacos from a vendor that appeared to be churning out some pretty incredible carne asada. They were build-your-own, so I topped my trio with a hearty splash of green salsa and a few scoops of onions before heading off to a picnic table.
The taste was solid, but my appetite had not yet been curbed, so I made the kind of decision that one tends to regret: I bought some apple pie fries.
What are apple pie fries, you ask? How do I put them in my face? Well, they come from a truck based out of Woodburn that became famous on the Food Network; they are fried apple wedges covered in cinnamon sugar, whipped cream and caramel.
They have the simultaneous potential to ruin your life and forever change it for the better. In the moment, it felt a lot more like the latter and it was easy to ignore the amount of time it would take on a treadmill to burn them off.
I emptied the container of all its sugary goodness and waddled onward to the next adventure.
That ended up being the kids' parade – a playful prelude to the grand parade to come on Saturday. Kids and their families were in wacky outfits, riding their bikes, or being dragged along by various dogs in and out of costume. They tossed candy toward onlookers, which was fun, but it still just felt like watching people walk – something I desperately needed to do after those apple pie fries.
I chose, instead, to go home and nap.
The grand spectacle
Less than 48 hours later, I was back in town for the grand parade. It's the most people I've ever seen in Newberg outside of a high school sporting event or graduation, and it may well have been a good bit more than that.
People of all ages lined the streets in collapsible chairs, underneath tents, shielded from the sun by trees or applying sunscreen if they weren't. Families argued, laughed and tried to wrangle their kids. Young couples leaned against each other or sat, stone-faced, staring at their phones. An elderly man complained about the glare of the sun while a baby laughed gleefully at his father's silly voice.
A few blocks down the street, Craig Ehlers, 61, sat on the corner next to his father-in-law, Bob Newbill, 80, with about an hour to go until the parade. Ehlers said the festival has become a kind of family tradition.
"I've been living here for almost 40 years and I've been coming for pretty much the whole time," Ehlers said. "It's just a good time to meet people, get out and about and watch the parade. We just make a day out of it."
Newbill traveled in from out of town to join his family in the fun. He commented on the near-perfection of the weather and looked forward to the fireworks later that night.
"We live in Sheridan and we just come to hang out with family and eat some elephant ears," Newbill said with a chuckle. "If it wasn't for family, we wouldn't be here. The grandkids and great-grandkids really like it."
Across the street and closer to the downtown fire station on Second Street, Erin Dobias, 52, and Annie Bynum, 46, waited as the parade drew close. Dobias said she has been attending the festival for 22 years; it was Bynum's first time.
"We work (as counselors) in the school district, so I love to see the students appearing in the parade," Dobias said. "It's fun to watch the age difference of everybody that's out here. It's kids all the way up to seniors and the seniors love it as much as the kids do."
Bynum is heading into her second year working at Mountain View Middle School and she was excited to bring her daughter along to the festival as well. They planned to partake in some fried goodies after the parade was over.
What really drew Bynum in, however, was the opportunity to feel more engrained in Newberg.
"This is a huge community event," she said. "Community is very important to me, so I wanted to show up and support people from here. I love it in Newberg."
Everything came to a brief hush as the parade began, only to give way to sounds of cheering, clapping, music and honking. Float after float rolled by, representing branches of the military, veterans groups, the fire and police departments, schools, youth groups and clubs, local businesses and more.
There were vibrant, multicultural displays that featured dancing horses, flowery outfits and upbeat music.
They traveled on the same road as a pickup truck with a cardboard cutout of President Trump sticking up from a bed lined with American flags. The Yamhill County GOP's homage to Trump, predictably, drew boos and cheers alike.
Most of the floats were about people. They honored people like Al Blodgett, the late Newberg fire chief, and they recognized outstanding citizens of the community – whether they be high school students or adults making a difference.
It seemed like everybody knew somebody in the parade. Parents waved to kids, friends caught up after not seeing each other in a long time and local movers and shakers met the people whom they serve.
The parade is – in a way – a microcosm of Newberg itself. The institutions and people that hold the community together were all on display in one place.
It's a reminder of the close-knit, small town mindset of the people who live here – even as things change around Newberg and urbanization creeps into the Chehalem Valley at an increasing speed.
No matter what happens in the next decade, Newberg has the Old Fashioned Festival and its accompanying parade as a potent reminder of the past, an opportunity to enjoy the present and a slight peek into the community's future.
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