“No Boundaries” is found in the quieter corners of the fair

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Kirby Neumann-Rea/News-Register##Barn To Be Wild fair themed cakes on display. The front one is by Leann Hoopingarner of Sheridan; behind it the creation of Isabelle Bernier de McMinnville, the winner of the Superintendent’s Choice ribbon.

My fondest memories of the 2022 Yamhill County Fair include a tutu.

Truly enjoying the fair, any fair, is a ballet of sorts – twists and turns that lead to new discoveries.

As a journalist, I have covered fairs in five different counties over the years and look forward to the event each time. I try to see something new but I confess to following familiar paths.

The loud, busier aspects of the fair – corndogs and carnivals – are fun. But to me they are less interesting than the modest pockets of creativity and country life.

Lorre and I attended the fair together on a Thursday evening, which turned out to be one of the busiest times. We were able to get through the middle and food courts with a serpentine strategy – “diagonal opening, two seconds to our left, go!” – as we weaved our way through the crowd.

Our highlights, beyond grabbing a bite to eat and taking a ride on the Ferris wheel, were seeing the animals and attending the Open Class art exhibits, as well as other exhibits, in the Lewis Pavilion.

Other years it might have been the music or Bullmania, but this year we were looking for quieter activities. I am here to say that at the county fair, there are plenty, between the freshness of the sheepfold and the color of the horticultural areas.

People attend for their own reasons, and the lure of the fair’s showy delights is understandable. But frankly, I find it disappointing that a large segment comes in for the mid and musical headliners, never setting foot in the show barns and other buildings.

One of our little pleasures is to visit the animal stables, including rabbits and chicken coops, where fur and feathers never fail to fascinate with their remarkable patterns.

An FFA exhibitor saw us admiring her rabbits and began to describe the distinctive black and white coloring of her Harlequins, split down the middle of the forehead. She spoke to us in simple yet descriptive detail about conformation and coloring, and this 10-year veteran of rabbit breeding showed as much satisfaction in informing us as we enjoyed being informed.

We thanked her. It wasn’t until we pulled away, and I heard someone using her name, that I realized our guide was one of the show’s ambassadors, Cheyanna Kelly.

The role was less important to Cheyanna than just sharing information about her beloved bunnies. It was the unpretentious quality that I cherish in the fair.

In the quiet and cool Lewis Pavilion, I found the creativity and variety of open class ideas particularly appealing: sparkling bottles of peach wine, jars of habanero sauce, a sword on a plank, and embroidery with elegantly stitched pills and the words, “If you’re happy and you know it, shake your meds.”

The sword featured an antique looking blade. Enrolled in the Youth Art category by Logan Fousek of Farmyard Frenzy 4-H, it was mounted on a rustic board and held together with precision-cut leather straps.

I had never seen anything like it at the fair.

The Barnyard themed cakes were as well constructed and decorated with precision as you would see in the Showstopper series of the ‘Great British Baking Show’. Another layered cake replicated mushrooms in an entry titled “Wild Mushrooms”.

You have to step away from the middle and the food court to see and appreciate these little gems.

Like the tutu. In my years of county fairs, I can’t remember ever seeing such a thing.

Leo Velor crafted the graceful garment and earned it a blue ribbon.

The entry tag only read “white dress”. Talk about an understatement.

Various residents tried their hand at transforming objects and materials into art and functional objects, in the “Something for nothing” category. See you next year for a glimpse of imagination and practicality joining forces.

I liked the impeccably tailored zippered garment bag made from a cattle feed bag by Isabelle Bernier of Country Critters 4-H.

I returned to the Lewis Pavilion on Friday, curious about the results of public choice in photography exhibitions. After all, we had voted the day before.

I walked in to find a group of volunteers at a table counting the ballots and met Superintendent of Photography Julie Carl. As they finished, Carl would then award his superintendent’s choices.

In People’s Choice, “Bee with Magnolia” by Ron Peterson of McMinnville won the adult category and the youth award went to “No Boundaries” by Addie Bradley of Sheridan.

Superintendent’s picks went to “Red White and Glee” by Douglas Egan of McMinnville and “My Protector” by Shaelee Stackpole of Hillsboro.

Carl praised the quality of the pictures – indeed, I struggled to decide my own vote – but lamented the drop in numbers.

“Much less,” she says. “People are moving away from printing photographs. They all have them on their phones.

The drop in registrations is also an issue that is reflected in other Open Class exhibits: art, clothing, baking, collections, etc., according to Carl.

One answer, she says, could come from returning to regular meetings of knitting, baking or quilt-making clubs and organizations.

“How can we encourage members to come back? This is a great thing,” she reflected.

She chairs the Yamhill County Camera Club, with meetings beginning in September at 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursdays in the First Federal Meeting Room at 111 NE Third St. It is open to anyone interested in sharing photos and donating and accept feedback.

Groups that are resuming regular meetings, or have continued them and wish to spread the word, are free to send a brief description with the date, time and place of the meeting, as well as a telephone number or contact email, at [email protected]

All of the crafts, baked goods, apparel and other county fair categories demonstrate the skill and love of craftsmanship. And, according to Carl, there are dedicated photographers among us.

She pointed to a photo of a cat that the participant took moments after turning off his lawn mower. “Yeah, he had his camera with him while he was mowing the lawn,” she said.

Contact Kirby Neumann-Rea at [email protected] or 503-687-1291.

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