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Albeit smaller than previous years, event reconnects old friends, brings classic charm to town.

PMG PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - Nearly two dozen performing horses and their riders from La Sierra Restaurant stole the show during Saturday's Old Fashioned Festival parade.

It's hot, hot, hot in Newberg -- so hot that after just 15 minutes in the sun, it feels like someone took a paintbrush and covered me in three thick coats of sweat.

But the heat, topping 96 degrees on Thursday, hasn't deterred the many kids and parents who now swarm the sidewalk in front of Renne Field for the Old Fashioned Festival's annual children's parade.

Children, from babies to teenagers, are decked out in various costumes. Most have adorned their helmets with horns or animals ears, but a few kids have really let their creativity shine. One young teen wears a red Rubik's Cube costume, while another dons a jellyfish hat.

A couple of moms lounge on lawn chairs near the start line, chatting about which church service they will attend on Sunday.

A boy and a girl run tight circles around their parents, chirping in excitement about the journey ahead.

As I walk by, I hear the mom chuckle, "As long as you guys get tired, that's all that matters," perhaps only half joking. PMG PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - The queen's coronation officially kicked off the annual celebration on Thursday.

Queen Tristyn and Princesses Sophia and Angelica, all clad in identical midnight blue dresses, stop for a photo atop their float with a little Snow White, who, under much encouragement, rings the giant bell above them.

While I've been told that the parade is not as ambitious as in previous years, with fewer participants and covering a much shorter distance, it's still astounding for me to see this many people interacting with each other after several years of an isolating pandemic.

In fact, this is the first time since 2019 that Newberg has held the festival in person. In 2020, it was cancelled. Last year, events were held online.

When I was a kid, this would have seemed like any old summer festival. But after the events of the past two years, watching these simple interactions between community members is powerful.

The rest of the festival will not be its old self, either. There will be only one ride, essentially trampoline bungie-jumping, as well far fewer booths, vendors and musicians. But it's something to latch onto, another step toward normalcy.PMG PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - The kid's parade featured costumes of all sizes and shapes Thursday.

The kid's parade begins with a police escort, followed by two Boy Scouts and the court. Then the kids take off, cruising on bikes, skateboards and scooters, with one teen riding a unicycle and another child on a small fire truck.

As expected, the children have a supportive crowd waiting for them. People are camped out in lawn chairs along the sidewalk or their front porches, waving and cheering as the kids, pursued on foot by their parents, whizz by.

After the parade, I head to Memorial Park, where I watch the opening ceremony and coronation and immediately speed-walk to get food. I decide to munch on some salted caramel dessert fries, which are surprisingly good but very heavy.

The lady at the fry stand describes them as "like a churro but with fries." I have to agree and am pleased that I have consumed fried food and dessert, the quintessential fair cuisine, in one sitting.PMG PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - Rotarion Gary Stewart tends the vittles at the pancake breakfast on Saturday morning.

On Friday, I return with my husband in the evening. It feels less hot than the day before, but I still see men walking around with no shirts. No judgment at all on my end. We're all suffering a little bit out here.

Attendance, like yesterday, is small but not in a bad way. It's rather quiet and mellow at the park and there's almost always a place to sit at the tables, with no long lines at vendors or booths. Bands, many of them covering oldies, play in the background throughout the evening, and a decent number of people sit under the canopy to watch.

My husband and I end up bumping into two of my friends from university as we hunt for the perfect meal.

I'm not the only one who had chance encounters.

Veritas teacher Kami McNiell had run into her granddaughter's former kindergarten teacher, Suzanne Duerr, earlier in the evening. The two of them, along with McNiell's mother, eat together while her three grandchildren repeatedly vanish and reappear with more candy and toys from the booths.PMG PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - There was no lack of music at Saturday's parade.

"The festival promotes great fellowship and the opportunity to connect with old friends," McNiell says, adding that she has most enjoyed watching her grandchildren experience the annual event, which they have never been to before.

After eating, my husband and I peruse the booths ourselves, trying our luck at the puzzle tent and leaving mostly confused and frustrated by our inability to solve the simplest one. We leave quickly before the heat can suffocate us further.

It's now Saturday, the day of the Grand Festival Parade, and parking is scarce.

I'm a few minutes late, but thanks to the sounds of drums and trumpets, I locate the floats with ease.

As I descend upon the crowds forming on the blocked-off streets, I am greeted by horses of practically every shade of brown and cream dancing to music, their hooves clomping on the pavement. I spot the source of the lively tune, Mexican restaurant La Sierra's float, carrying several musicians.

Despite attempts to clean up after the horses, the air is still thick with the smell of manure.

For roughly 15 to 20 minutes, more exciting floats sail by, many with folks tossing candy, stickers or other knickknacks to the audience. To name a few highlights, I see a woman wearing a blue mermaid tail, a man dressed as a flowerpot and an organized group of elderly baton twirlers, musicians and cheerleaders dressed in purple costumes.

Esperanza Gonzalez and Juan Cervantes Gonzalez agree with my sentiment that La Sierra's horse performance stole the parade. Mother and son, they've attended the festival and all its events since Cervantes Gonzalez and his siblings were little.

"We're happy watching the whole thing and getting candies," Gonzalez says. "We love it."

After the last float disappears down the road, the street crowd slowly disperses. But the lawns and sidewalks in front of many houses remain packed.

Tahnee Reeser's home is one of those current ant hills, as she is hosting friends and their families for food and drinks before many attend the festival.

"Having people with us during the parade makes everything better," Reeser says. "The kids can hang out with their friends, and I can hang out with mine."

She says it's wonderful that the parade is back this year. "We missed it," Reeser says. "It goes past our home and the last two years we've been missing out."

Her friend, Trisia Snyder, concurs.

"This is what America's all about," Snyder said. "A small town gathering all together. It's the heart of a community."

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