Here at the Portland Rose Festival City Fair (in former years, “Fun Center”), I’m sloshing through a lot of mud, thanks to more rain than anyone needs to start a summer. Good thing I wore grubby shoes. The sun is shining, though, off and on, and folks are having a great time on wild rides, eating heart attack foods (fried ice cream, corndogs, deep-fried candy bars and cookies–and what are funnel cakes, anyway?) and shooting baskets for prizes. Jamie, age 15, and I wander through, soaking it in. She throws darts at balloons and wins stuffed animals and a picture, but loses at getting rubber rings over bottles. When I ask the guy behind the counter if anyone ever wins this game, he says two players have. Definitely not good odds.
City Fair covers a huge area at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, by the Willamette. Tents cover some stalls, but rides like the Sea Dragon, the Starship, and of course the ferris wheel, are open to the sky. Vendors hawk their wares. a guitarist plays on the outdoor stage, riders scream as they hurtle through the air and turn upside-down. What’s not to like? The KATU-TV website has several comments about “weirdos” who come to the fair. That’s offensive and not what I’m seeing. Granted, it’s not an upscale crowd. But there’s great diversity and many families, ordinary folks having fun in a festive, friendly, carnival atmosphere.
Jamie and I check out the games, rides and vendors, and by far our favorite is the exhibit of exotic animals. There are iguanas, an albino Burmese python, other snakes large and small, a huge Sulcata tortoise, a bobcat, a serval, and a big, gorgeous tiger. These creatures couldn’t survive in the wild, where they belong, because they’ve been (mostly) illegally kept as “pets.” At one cage people stand in line waiting their turn to get inside, where they can play with an 8-week-old Bengal tiger. Such a cute kitty! Who will soon grow to 700 magnificent, dangerous pounds. The animals belong to “Walk on the Wild Side,” a non-profit corporation that aims to care for displaced exotic species and increase interest in preserving their diversity.
City Fair is open these dates and hours: June 2 & 3, 3 pm-11 pm. June 4 & 5, 11 am-11 pm. June 9 & 10, 3 pm-11 pm. June 11 & 12, 11 am- 11 pm. The cost to enter is $5; children 6 and under are free. Entrance is free June 9-12 to active members of the military, vets and reservists, with one guest. You can enter as many days as you wish if you buy a $5 souvenir pin, available at Fred Meyer, Dennis’ 7 Dees garden centers, the Rose Festival Store in Washington Park, and Rose Festival office on Naito Parkway.
Bring cash and don’t wear high heels.