By Nathalie Hardy • Columnist • 

County's population reaches 100,000 mark

Anita and John Lewis were smitten by the area’s charm and ended up moving here permanently from Washington.

Cindy Britten and her husband David Petree relocated to McMinnville from Alaska. 

All six are among the 700 people who pushed Yamhill County beyond the 100,000 population mark. 

The most recent certified population estimate by Portland State University indicates Yamhill County with a population of 100,550 as of July 1.

Last year, the figure was 99,850 and the certified census population in 2010 was 99,193. The 2010 figures show the top three states people migrated from were California, Nevada and Washington. 

Something else the couples share is a sense that the area welcomed them enthusiastically. 

In the short time Hixson has lived in the county, he said he feels happier here than he has in any of the many other places he’s lived, ranging from Georgia to New York and New Jersey, and, of course, his home state, of Utah.

Parker also hails from Utah, where the two attended the same high school in Salt Lake City. However, they didn’t meet until they lived in Portland.

Hixson was commissioned to paint ceiling murals in Long Beach, Wash., and the two found returning to Portland overwhelming, so they entertained the idea of moving out of the big city. 

They fell in love with McMinnville immediately and on their initial visit they serendipitously parked in front of a house that would eventually become home.

Within a few months of living here, Hixson, a painter and jewelery maker, found studio space and Parker began working downtown. 

“Everything is opening up. It’s amazing how it’s all turning out,” Hixson said. He said he loves the area itself from an environmental perspective and the landscape, but what is most endearing to him are the people and how authentic they are.

“The people I meet are really who they are,” he said. His social experiences run the gamut from meeting small business owners, entrepreneurs, chefs, wine makers, and all kind of people with varied interests.

“Also, I’m an Elk,” he said. He goes to Sunday breakfasts at the Elks Lodge and plays bingo on Wednesdays. He said he enjoys spending time with fellow members and loves the 100-year-old lodge.

“New people moving here stoke the fire of what is special about what locals were born and raised with,” Hixson said. He said he hopes they are excited about seeing other people appreciating what the county has to offer and wanting to call it home, too. 

John and Anita Lewis found the area by accident, Anita said. She explained they were looking for a place they’d like to retire and were considering Florence. But, the night they came to visit a terrible storm nearly rolled their R.V. So, for her husband who is not a fan of high wind, Florence was out.

On the way back to Camano Island, Wash., John wanted to visit Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. 

“So, we came to check it out and that was the beginning of the end right there,” Lewis said.

Since then, they’ve come to know the town as they walk around downtown with their papillon Eliza Doolittle. Also, she said, they are both involved in organizations like the McMinnville Garden Club and John volunteers with the Yamhill County Historical Society. 

Lewis calls McMinnville “a big, small town” and said its best feature is its people.

“It is so everlastingly friendly. There are so many artisans here. That’s really what I love, the community of people that create things. There is so much going on here,” Lewis said.  Besides the people, Lewis said she appreciates the agricultural landscape. 

For Cindy Britten, a little snow added to the landscape would make it feel more like December. Britten and her husband, David Petree, moved here from Alaska. 

Britten said she loves the area but is still getting accustomed to the weather.

“I still can’t believe I can go outside in my Birkenstocks in December,” she said. 

Britten said they moved as a matter of economy because it’s very expensive to live in Alaska, especially on a retirement income. 

Finding a new state they both wanted to live in was an on-going discussion, but they decided on Oregon after their daughter was accepted to the University of Portland. 

“McMinnville really struck me in terms of quaintness and the feeling of the downtown,” she said. “Plus, there’s a good public library system, a college and access to a farmer’s market. I like that people are growing their own food and thinking in terms of sustainability.” Plus, she said the rural landscape was a big for her and David since he was raised on a farm. 

Britten has also joined the McMinnville Garden Club and volunteers for the Homeward Bound Pets Thrift Shop. She said she is still exploring the area and looking forward to meeting more people with shared interests.



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