Smoothing out hoof-churned dirt, Craig Ortega was working hard between barrel races Saturday afternoon at the Hood River County Fair.
“You’re holding it up, Craig!” a joshing friend shouted as Ortega pulled with the rake in the Frank Herman Arena.
Without looking up, Ortega called, “Quality over quantity!”
The fair was really about both.
The open class horse competition was just one of many events that brought out thousands of people, and their senses of humor, to the county fair last week.
About 25,000 people attended the fair, according to fair manager Clara Rice. That’s about nine percent more than 2001. The mood was happy, and Rice added that no incidents were reported to the sheriff’s department.
“That’s never happened before,” Rice said.
The fair also celebrated the 100th anniversary of 4-H. Saturday at the carnival, a trio of Noah’s Ark 4-H’ers took time out for the carnival rides.
“I had a great year,” said Andrea Bakurjian of Odell. “I got to be with my animals, and I absolutely love being with my animals.” She won three blue ribbons for her pigs.
“It’s a little like homework,” said her friend, Samantha Chacone, who won Reserve Champion for her goats. “You have to make sure (your animal) does good. Just getting to the fair takes a lot of work, and you have to be prepared.”
Amy Hobbs, also in Noah’s Ark, said she struggled a bit with some of the judging, but emerged with two blue ribbons — and $235 for a market goat.
“The fair’s not just about carnival rides,” Hobbs said. “It’s about sharing and helping others, and supporting the group.”
The fair seemed to bring out that kind of community spirit.
“Everyone this year just seemed to have a good time,” Rice said. “They were relaxing, enjoying, and doing lot of visiting with their neighbors. And that’s what it’s all about.”
Thousands had a good time Saturday night at one of the headline shows, the comedy duo Williams and Ree (“The Indian and the White Guy”) at the football field.
“Many people told me, ‘It was so nice to be able to sit and laugh’,” Rice said. “They really needed to laugh.”
The Master Gardeners counted 1,200 people visiting their garden in the center of the horticulture building.
“That’s a good indication people were looking at everything — taking time to stop and smell the roses,” Rice said.
For Nancy Lane of Hood River, the key was that her children were having a good time.
“I’m just watching the kids have fun. That’s what I like,” said Nancy Lane of Hood River, at the fair with her children Mercedes, 7, Michael, 5, and Max, 4. “I like that the carnival is very family-oriented,” said Lane, as her children, and husband, Josh, enjoyed the spinning Gravitron ride.
She said the custom car show was “really impressive,” and another highlight was the Brad’s Reptile Show.
“At the zoo, you can’t get that close to the animals, so this was really a lot of fun for the kids,” Lane said. “It’s very tactile. They can see it and do it.”
The sensory part of the fair is important to the Lane family, because Michael is autistic. That means sensory stimulation can be overwhelming for him.
“It’s been great because it feels like things aren’t quite as loud this year, and even the smells just don’t seem as strong,” Lane said.
“We came out at a kind of low time, and he’s having a great time,” she said, as Michael dragged his dad off to another ride.
The fair brought changes this year, including improved electrical and utility services that ran without a problem, Rice said.
The fair added a talent show (details on page B7) and a “Special Summer Visitors” category for children visiting the county this summer. Rice said, “We learned a lot, and had about 60 exhibits, but we’ll do it again next year. For the first year it went wonderfully.”
Another addition to the fair was in tribute to the Sept. 11 tragedy. In the “Twin Towers” category in Floral Display, competitors were asked to create entries, at least three feet tall, using plants and other objects.
Naomi Frisbie of Hood River won with her use of thick-stalked cow parsley, broken near the top just like the World Trade Center towers.
“It made me sad as I was doing it,” Frisbie said, adding that she likes working with cow parsley and other tall plants. Frisbie has been entering Floral Display for 20 years. “The idea (for the entry) just came to me,” she said.
“The stalks are different heights, but the towers were hit at different times,” Frisbie said. Besides the height requirement, the entries also had to incorporate red, white and blue, in keeping with the official fair theme. Frisbie used red gladiolas, blue larkspur and white “obedient” plants. She placed pot shards and concrete chunks at the base to represent the Trade Center rubble.
“I was just flabbergasted,” to win, she said. “We have such wonderful competition.” Also entering were Maybelle Warren of Hood River, Erma Bryson of Odell, and Mary Lou Larson of Hood River.
The job of putting Frisbie’s ribbon on her entry fell to Margaux and Francesca Krentz of White Salmon, who helped their grandmother, floral judge Judy Krentz of Hood River.
“They have great eye for detail,” fellow judge Larry Smith said of Margaux, 12, and Francesca, 10, who helped log in the floral entries, alphabetize them and transfer them to the horticulture building to be sorted before judging.
It sounds like a lot of work, but the girls enjoyed arranging the vegetables and fruits.
“One blueberry fell on the floor. I got to wash it off and ate it,” Francesca said, with a mischievous smile.
She created cookies and a wreath and entered them in Special Visitors. Margaux made a cake shaped like a tea pot and other items.
Francesca also entered two “fresco” plates, using painted plaster — which Margaux taught her to do after learning about it in school.
Much of their time is spent with their grandparents, whose home, fittingly, is known as “The Farm.”
If some things change at the fair, others stay the same. One example: quilting.
In this case, it’s a cross-country, mother-daughter, local quilt group tale.
Thimble at ready, 42-year quilting veteran Eileen Kirby of Mt. Hood spent much of the fair working on a blue and yellow “Crown of Thorns” quilt in the community building.
Kirby’s mother, Clata Kirby of Sparta, Tenn., made the quilt blocks and the Rather Bees are completing the project — all told, it will take 600 hours, Kirby said. Visitors watched as she quilted a leaf pattern onto one border, while a second interior border awaits a braid design.
It will keep the group busy. “We have a very active quilting community in Hood River,” she said.
“My mom hand-pieced the blocks, so I said if she hand-pieced it, I’d have to hand-quilt it,” Kirby said.