Posted by: David Stewart | September 6, 2011

The "Other" state

Bantam, Oregon state fair

We started the weekend in Salem, Oregon to attend that great American summer ritual, the State Fair.

Oregon has a very stark contrast between the urban and agricultural. Portland, home of the hip, young and artistic class is light years distant from what consumes the majority of the state’s land mass, and that is farming. These are the people in our state who feed us, clothe us and preserve the land for future generations.

The State Fair is the annual convocation of that majority part of Oregon.

Deb and the girls used to make an annual ritual out of attending the fair the week before school ended. Laura asked if we could go this year, and the whole family went, under my one condition that I was uninterested in rides that would make me sick. (Thanks to almost hourly trains from Portland’s Union Station, I was able to hop down after work for the hour-long trip to Salem).

What always amazes me are the variety of competitions on display:

  • Small animals, like the cocky little bantam above, and ducks and bunnies, are on sale for you to take home.

 OH: "Holy uterus", Oregon State FairClydesdales, Oregon State Fair

  • Big animals, like horses, cows, sheep, lambs, goats and kids, are being shown by their young Future Farmers of America owners.
  • Competitions, such as quilting, counted cross stitch, pie making, cake baking, coffee cakes and quick breads, jams and preserves, all manner of vegetable growing and fruit growing. Kid photo contests. Beer making and wine making.
  • Crazy, off-the wall competitions, like table setting. Did you know there was a table setting competition? I didn’t. Here is the winning entry for this year. They are judged on the choice of menu, utensils, places, table decorations, theme and artistic merit. I think this is amazing, but I would hate it if the greatest accomplishment of my life was to win the blue ribbon for table decoration at the state fair. Why? Well, I guess that’s just how I am.

Winner of the table setting competition - Oregon state fair

  • Chicks hatching and bees buzzing. Artisans selling their wares and touting their advances in various products.

 This display is really cheep, Oregon state fair

  • Businesses offering everything from the over-hyped ShamWow to fireplaces, infrared dry saunas, leather goods, sports memorabilia, hammock chairs, hair care products, shoe care products, political parties, custom wooden sign making, bbq grills, Bible stories, nail care products, jewelry, water massages, hand massages, BMW’s, electric cars, Mustangs.
  • Shows like dog jumping shows, mime shows, garden shows, wine shows, big shows with name-brand country music groups and small-time old-timey bands and single performers on their instruments.
  • Food, but mostly food from the lowest common element of American cuisine, like fry bricks, two foot long corn dogs, funnel cakes, deep fried Oreo cookies, Hawaiian noodles, bbq beef and chicken, pizza, vegetarian sandwiches, kabobs, beer.

It is a great reminder of the other state. Though it did make me wonder what the equivalent of the State Fair for we urban types would be? Here are some ideas:

  • Competitions on web site design, online gaming, card kid games like D&D, hip-hop songs, dance competitions, singing competitions, maximum speed text messaging, lawn mowing, weeding, deck building, house painting, car decorating, driving
  • Raising rats, cats, dogs, gerbils, hamsters, mosquitoes, nutria, possums, road kill
  • Found object art, abstract art, surreal art, graffiti (although tagging could be both an art and a competition).
  • Running – hey, what about a race or two? 5K, 10K, half marathon. Bike race, swimming race. Triathlon. Zoo-bombing. Naked bike riding.
  • Food, well you could imagine all kinds of cuisine and ways of preparing and serving food.

Of course, all of these happen all summer long in Portland. The nice thing about the State Fair is to give a common place for the non-urbanites to shine… and for us urbanites to come join in for a day.

I guess we have



  1. Well… first of all, D&D isn’t a card game. But you don’t think animal raising and chick-hatching goes on all year in the rural areas of the state? 😉

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