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4-H shines at 108th Multnomah County Fair

by: DAVID F. ASHTON - These Multnomah 4-H Club members - sisters Julia and Jackie Ruff - show their works of art which won ribbons this year. Although the Fair had only been open for two hours, the parking spots were already hard to find on opening day – Saturday, May 24 – at Oaks Amusement Park. The 108th annual Multnomah County Fair had opened for its brief three-day run, over the Memorial Day weekend.

Even though this county fair hasn’t been supported by Multnomah County since 1993, it still was “Looking Great at 108” – the slogan for this year’s festival – in its home at The Oaks.

“The best thing about this year’s County Fair is the resurgence of the 4-H clubs,” said Rick Paul, the President of Friends of Multnomah County Fair. “The county defunded 4-H clubs about ten years ago, but again started making small contributions about four years ago,” Paul said.

Started 112 years ago, back in the agrarian era, 4-H (Head, Heart, Hands, and Health) was perhaps the “original STEM program”, because its activities have always focused on science and research, he observed.

Last year, 4-H displays took up about four feet of space in the Oaks Dance Pavilion. “This year we have about 40 feet of their displays,” Paul said, beaming with pride. “And, for the first time in ten years, their crafts are being judged, allowing them to be entered in the Oregon State Fair in Salem.”

Paul observed that 4-H clubs also had obtained a large area for their members’ animals to be on display and judged this year.

“Everyone has their own ‘favorite attractions’ at a county fair,” Paul said. “But, the very best part, for me, is seeing the growth in 4-H participation. Watching these kids grow and mature over the years, and become confident young men and women in developing their skills and their intellect – it makes me tear up as I speak about it.”

It’s not all about youngsters, though.

“There are so many craft items on display in the Pavilion this year,” Paul continued. “It's hard to believe how skilled our neighbors are, until you look around and see the needlepoint and sewing items. Then, take a look at the many flower displays – far beyond anything you’d see anyplace else around here.

“Also, there’s individual artwork and photography of all kinds here,” Paul went on. “One gentleman brought in wood burning – almost a ‘lost’ craft and talent.”

After visiting the County Fair exhibits, many families took advantage of the inexpensive wristbands that admitted them to a full afternoon of Oaks Park’s rides. Little kids obviously enjoyed their scaled-down rides as much as the “big kids” did the spectacular thrill rides.

As the sun came out from behind the early overcast, the line grew at the “Oregon Dairy Women” stand, with folks clamoring for the gigantic ice cream cones and milk shakes.

“We have eight members who volunteer during the year to keep the Fair going,” Paul said, “And seven who are our volunteer departmental superintendents. And we have another half dozen people that are involved in talent, setup, and operations as well.”

Without contributions from their sponsors, and the dedication of their volunteers, there would be no Fair, Paul said. “And, Oaks Amusement Park continues to be wonderful hosts, and very generous with us.”

Again this year, without any assistance from the county it represents, the Multnomah County Fair is doing its county proud. The three-day fair ended on Monday, May 26 – Memorial Day. If you missed it, make it part of your Memorial Day weekend next year – at Oaks Amusement Park.