West Linn community sad to miss Old Time Fair due to COVID-19
In 1975, Larry McIntyre and his family moved to the Bolton area of West Linn. One Saturday in July shortly after the move, while on a drive through town, he discovered what he recently described as "the spirit of West Linn": the Old Time Fair.
McIntyre would go on to serve as president of the fair association for a number of years, and become recognizable to West Linn residents as the emcee of the ambassador coronation and other fair events.
"We fell in love with the fair in 1975 and it's been part of our family ever since," he said.
For 64 years, the Old Time Fair has been a hallmark of summertime in West Linn, but thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the community will have to go without the water ski show, pie eating contests, ambassador court coronation, car show and carnival in 2020.
Last week, the city of West Linn announced that the 65th annual West Linn Old Time Fair would not take place this year.
"These are really hard decisions for us and (when) we make these, it certainly impacts the community. When we looked at what was happening around the state, the governor's guidance, the Oregon Health Authority, it became very clear to us that we were probably not going to have large events in the city and we held off as long as we could," West Linn Parks and Recreation Director Ken Warner said.
According to Warner, the parks department and others involved with the fair thought hard about the possibility of postponing the fair, or creative methods to safely host it, before accepting that it wasn't possible to ensure everyone's safety at such a large event.
"The fair has so many different partners and organizations that we work with that it just became time to let everybody know that it wasn't going to be possible," Warner said.
McIntyre said it's been an honor to be involved with the fair all these years, especially the ambassador court. The courage the young court members show at such a vulnerable age inspires him each year, he said.
For West Linn Lions Club member and former president Jim Jensen, the fair is a special tradition and will be greatly missed this year.
Jensen said one of his favorite memories of the fair was making breakfast outside during a torrential downpour in the 1990s. The Lions traditionally serve pancakes after the morning PJs to Pancakes fun run.
"Needless to say, we were not real busy, but some people (decided) to brave the storm to show up for their favorite fair," Jensen recalled of that memorable morning. "We persevered in spite of the wet."
This perseverance embodies the "spirit of West Linn," which McIntyre said is found in abundance at the fair.
"It (the fair) represents the best of our community," McIntyre said. "The fair is more than just a carnival. It's really the spirit of West Linn. It has a capacity to absorb the newer people and it doesn't take them long to absorb that same spirit and realize 'This is our backbone. This is who we are. We've got spirit.'"
Both McIntyre and Jensen were sad to learn of the fair's cancellation this year but look forward to its return in 2021.
Next year's fair, McIntyre said, will be an opportunity to "become West Linn again."
According to Warner, not having the fair this year gives organizers more time to examine what can be improved at the event.
"The next fair will be bigger and better than ever," Warner said.
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