While tradition is at the heart of West Linn's Old Time Fair, the focus of the decades old program is not exactly the same as it was at its inception.
"We're trying to make it more evident to the public as something that is young people reaching out and interacting with the community rather than what it has been seen as in the past, just princesses in dresses," said 2018 Old Time Fair Queen Sarah Talbert.
Now, one of the key pieces for each fair ambassador (prior to this year, the members of the court were called 'princesses' or 'queen candidates') is their community service project.
"Maybe (the project) is something that they're very interested in like it's music or dance or art but they're still responsible for developing a project and going out and finding someone who will mentor that project and will supervise them and evaluate them. It's bigger than just going and doing some community service somewhere," said Terri Jones of the West Linn Parks Department, who has helped coordinate the court for the past several years.
This year's ambassadors engaged in a variety of leadership and community service roles for their projects.
Avery Mickey led a sing-along at Tanner Springs Assisted Living. Noah Eddy helped out with the band program at Athey Creek, sorting music and teaching younger kids how to playan instrument. Isabella Renouf taught Sunset Primary students how to be more confident in their reading and Bella Villarreal-Poche volunteered at PAWS Animal Shelter and started a fundraiser for a new sign for the shelter.
Jones said that in the past several years the ambassadors have increased their community involvement by attending more events.
"They are sort of the face of the fair the rest of the year at different city events, the holiday events, all of our other summer events that happen after the fair," Jones said.
Jones also noted how the role of the fair's queen (which, in coming years could be a king) has evolved into a mentorship role for the following year's court. Talbert, who was on the court last year, has assisted this year's court.
"I've grown a ton through being a part of this program, so having that opportunity for me to be able to lead other young people to also grow in their public speaking and learning how to become part of the community is great," Talbert said. "As the person who has been mentoring them through this, getting to see their growth through the past five months has been amazing and made me really proud."
Both Jones and Talbert mentioned that court members have always served as role models for younger kids, which is part of what keeps the tradition alive.
"(The court) really draws in little girls;it makes them really approachable, almost like a Disney princess, that way it keeps it alive for new families that are moving into the community that don't know the history of the 63 years of the festival," Jones said.
Growing up, Talbert had a personal look into the life of an Old Time Fair princess.
"My sister was a princess five years ago, so I saw what cool things it did for her and wanted to also participate in something like that," she said.
Talbert has enjoyed the way young kids look up to her as a member of the court.
"Little kids will walk right up and introduce themselves and ask you all sorts of questions so it's really cool to be seen like that when you're only 14 or 15," she said.
The other notable change to the court is this year's inclusion of a male ambassador for the first time, but both Talbert and Jones remarked how little this has impacted the way the court runs other than the official name change from "princesses" to "ambassadors."
"It's not as big of a change as we were anticipating. Part of that is due to Noah because he is just an easy-going person and so he has not made it a big deal," Jones said. "And to the credit of the other court members, it is not a big deal to them either. So that's been a very pleasant surprise. It just tells you that the timing was right for this to happen."
The 2019 king or queen of the Old Time Fair will be crowned at the fair's opening night, Friday, July 19.
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