The all-volunteer organizing group for the 117th Multnomah County Fair, held on Memorial Day Weekend at historic and non-profit Oaks Amusement Park, promised a "bigger and better" fair than ever, and they delivered.
True, it wasn't the huge event it once was — back before the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners de-funded their own fair, and then gave their fairgrounds to METRO in the mid-1990s.
But, the nonprofit Friends of Multnomah County Fair volunteers came through once again with an event that delighted hundreds of families who arrived amid sporadic rain showers.
"We're all so happy to be presenting the 116th annual Multnomah County Fair at historic Oaks Amusement Park," exclaimed Friends of Multnomah County Fair Board President Larry Smith.
"Our county fair did take place in both of the last two years — but we were not allowed to host any activities; had no entertainment, no vendors, no food booths," acknowledged Smith. They were not even allowed to let any spectators in!
"But, we did hold really cool traditional craft competitions that we highlighted online. We promised this year's fair would be the most culturally-inclusive event ever, and it certainly was," Smith said with pride.
'La Familia Day' a success
May 29 was "La Familia Day", and included free Hispanic/Latino dancing, singing, bands, and groups on the Entertainment Stage — and free Loteria with prizes all day long.
Additionally, West Coast Kruzerez put on a car show that brought out categories of vehicles, including Lowriders, Lowrider Bikes, Classic Cars, Hot Rods, Imports, Luxury, Street, Donk, and Pedal Cars, vying for trophies and $500 top cash prize.
4-H didn't exhibit this year, but there were animals at this year's fair. On opening day, breeders and fanciers of rabbits and cavies from all over the Pacific Northwest brought hundreds of critters for a sanctioned judging by the American Rabbit Breeders Association experts.
The certified judges picked up and examined each animal and dictated their findings to a note-taker, before carefully setting the animal back down and moving on to the next one.
This year saw the return of "Weiner Dog Races", in which humans brought their Dachshunds to compete for prizes.
It was hard to tell who was having the most fun: The dogs, the owners, or those watching the racing heats during the day.
Crafts fill the Exhibit Hall
This year, visitors to the fair were permitted to visit the Creative Living Exhibit Hall set up in the Oaks Park Dance Pavilion — where Arts & Crafts, Floral, Photography, Needle Crafts, and Foods department superintendents oversaw the judging of each entry. Many exhibitors went home delighted, with blue ribbons!
"It's been important to us to keep our Multnomah County Fair tradition going, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic kept people at home, where they began doing more crafts, and sewing, baking, gardening, and home-based activities," Smith observed.
"A county fair encourages making crafts; and here we especially encourage young people to follow along in some of the more traditional activities that are on display at a county fair."
By all measures, a successful fair
After the fair was over, we checked in with Friends of Multnomah County Fair Board Member Mary Beth Coffey to get her perspective on how it went this year.
"We invited at eight cultural groups to entertain our fair guests and they all came," remarked Coffey. "One guests told me, 'I'm so happy to see so many happy faces of so many different colors' — letting us know they recognized our goal of making this a place that welcomes everyone, of every culture."
She said that Oaks Park CEO Brandon Roben told her, "For the first time you have had more guests in the 'fair area' than on the ride midway."
Because Oaks Park doesn't charge admission, and doesn't require guests to come in through a single gate, volunteers took counts throughout the event. "My guess is 10,000 visitors over three days; and we sold 1,800 ride bracelets before noon on Sunday."
In addition to hosting nonprofit organizations and civic groups, this year's fair had 30 paid vendors and four food booths.
"Oaks Park has invited us to come back for Memorial Day Weekend 2023; and we're already planning new fun experiences," Coffey smiled.
Now, take an exclusive BEE video tour of this year's Multnomah County Fair, right here — youtu.be/ShSXCusV6tI
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