Oregon State Fair, Part 3

Dear Liza,

Carol Cooper’s Faces

Even more than farm animals, junk food and local history, State Fairs, for me, are all about the handicrafts. After we had seen everything else, including pig races, we finally found the “Creative Living” building.

On the way to the quilts, I met Denise Steele and Carol Dare, who are local authors. Denise has solved an 800 year old mystery surrounding The Magna Carta, and tells about it in The Mystery of the Magna Carta  that has computer apps that make it even more interesting. Carol has written four books about women in history, like World War II nurses ( titled When the World Wept) and  the Vanport Flood.  I plan to keep in touch with them both, to enjoy their books and get advice on my own story.

After some interesting conversation, I was finally headed for my goal. The back wall of the hall was lined with quilts!  I have always loved quilts. Historically, quilts were a way of using every scrap of precious fabric, of making a thing of beauty out of leftovers.

Sunbonnet Sue and Overall Sam

But the quilts at the State Fair are not historic quilts, but new creations made by contemporary artisans, men and women who use new fabric, machine piecing and machine quilting to make works of art. Some patterns were very traditional, like the hand appliqued pattern Sunbonnet Sue. Others were charmingly modern, like a flamingo scene or a caricature quilt that looks sort of like Auntie Bridgett’s cartoons. They were bright and fun and made with skill and care.

Reitha Hall’s Flamingos


As far as I could see, the only quilter to use old and recycled material was Bill Crane, a quilter from Portland. He used fabric, found embroidery, and even a tuxedo shirt to make a beautiful, interesting piece of art.

Bill Crane’s delightful recycled work

What I missed were hand-quilted quilts. I noticed only two out of the hundred-plus quilts, and these used hand quilting as a bright feature of the quilt, a folksy feature to make it obviously hand-sewn. The goal of “the most stitches per inch” seems to have gone by the wayside with the availability of quilting machines. Beautiful as they are, the precise, overt machine quilting lines lack a subtlety that I value.

Rare Hand Quilted Quilt

We finally felt that we had seen and done everything we could do, and headed back to the car. Grandpa Nelson drove us home and we crashed on the couch, feeling all Oregon’d out.





Grandma Judy

Oregon State Fair, Part 2

Dear Liza,

Childhood in motion

After we had visited all the animal barns at the Oregon State Fair, we headed to the midway. The rides and junk food were delightful, but we were careful how we combined them.

Years ago, my equilibrium decided I shouldn’t ride the fast rides anymore, but I sure enjoy watching. Most of them are rides that have been around since I could, though. One vintage swing ride even bills itself as “A Michael Jackson Ride, from Neverland Ranch.” The paint job and simple construction are elegant and really take me back.

The one ride we got tickets for was the “Fair Lift”, benches on a high cable, like the sky ride at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. “See the fair from a chair!” Says the sign. “In the air, if you dare!” We added. It was not only a great view of the whole fairgrounds, low enough to smell the BBQ ribs and hear the music, but a chance to sit down for a full 30 minutes!

Grandpa Nelson, following the rules

Down the fair from the midway was the one room Criterion School, which was in use until 1925. It was moved here from Maupin by the National Guard in 1976 as an example of a standard schoolhouse and is currently maintained and staffed by retired educators from all over the state.

Criterion School

I enjoyed talking with the ladies and seeing the old report cards and desks, but what really got my attention were the old books! I have been trying to find curriculum materials from 1903 to use in my story, and here they were! I took lots of pictures and notes…I will be cruising old book sites soon.

Tomorrow, quilts and things!


Grandma Judy


Oregon State Fair, Part 1

Dear Liza,

Very calm sheep

Portland is only about 45 minutes north of Salem, which is the capital city of Oregon. Yesterday we all drove down to see the State Fair. Since the weather has finally gotten a little cooler, it was a pleasant day.

First, of course, was the animals. The FFA and other livestock barns are the heart and soul of any state fair. We enjoyed seeing the sheep and goats get all spruced up, then dressed in little robes to keep them clean while they waited their turn to be shown.

Very clean goats

Next door was the poultry, where Auntie Bridgett spent some time talking to the ducks and chickens. They actually seemed to be listening for a while, but were confused by her accent. She speaks California poultry, I guess.

The barns are not just big, they are historic. The poultry barn was build in 1921, the year my Momma was born, and the horse barn in 1919. Included in the poultry were pheasants, which I always think of as wild birds, but these seemed comfortable being in a pen and being admired by hundreds of strangers.

Not just a building, an historic poultry building

In the historic wooden horse arena we saw the “Showmanship” judging. This involved a few dozen horses standing, stopping, walking, and backing up. I admired the construction of the arena as well, all wooden trusses and bracing, and wondered how it would have sounded in 1919, when it was jam-packed with local horsemen  showing off their prize animals. I confess, horse shows make me miss my dad, your great grandpa Lowell. At every fair I ever went to, he greeted every horse like an old friend.

1919 horse arena

Walking out of the cool barn we found the beginnings of the dog judging. One handsome fellow was being the practice dog, to make sure the timing mechanisms were working. He was having so much fun, he kept running through his paces backward and forward, having a ball!

Extremely happy dog

By then, it was time to eat, so we went in search of healthy food! Just kidding. I had a baked potato with everything, Auntie Bridgett had a pulled pork sandwich, and Grandpa Nelson had a three course meal: Karmelkorn, a milk shake, and giant pretzel.

More tomorrow!


Grandma Judy