By Kirby Neumann-Rea • Of the News-Register • 

Back, and Forth: ‘No Boundaries’ can be found in quieter corners of the fair

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

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

Truly appreciating the fair, any fair, is somewhat of a ballet — turns and jumps that lead to new discoveries.

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

The noisy, 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 took in the fair together on a Thursday night, which turned out to be among the best-attended times. We were able to traverse the midway and the food court areas with a serpentine strategy — “diagonal opening, two seconds on our left, go!” — as we picked our way through the crowd.

Our focus points, beyond getting a bite to eat and a Ferris wheel ride, were to view the animals and take in the Open Class art exhibits, along with other exhibits, in the Lewis Pavilion.

Other years, it might be music or Bullmania, but this year we were looking for quieter pursuits. I’m here to say that at the county fair, there are plenty, between the coolness of the sheep barn and the color of the horticulture areas.

People attend for their own reasons, and the lure of the gaudy pleasures of the fair is understandable. But frankly, I find it disappointing that a large segment comes for the midway and musical headliners, never setting foot inside the display barns and other buildings.

One of our small joys is visiting the animal barns, including the rabbits and poultry quarters, where fur and feathers never fail to fascinate with their remarkable patterns.

One FFA exhibitor saw us admiring her rabbits and began describing her Harlequins’ distinctive black-and-white coloring, split down the middle of the forehead. She told us in simple but descriptive detail about conformation and coloring, and this 10-year veteran of rabbit-raising showed as much satisfaction in informing us as we enjoyed being informed.

We thanked her. It was only as we walked away, and I heard someone use her name, that I realized that our guide was one of the Fair Ambassadors, Cheyanna Kelly.

The role was less important to Cheyanna than the simple sharing of information about her beloved rabbits. Hers was the unassuming quality I treasure in the fair.

In the cool quiet of the Lewis Pavilion, I found the creativity and variety of ideas in Open Class to be particularly engaging: glistening bottles of peach wine, jars of habanero sauce, a sword on a board, and needlepoint 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. Entered in the Youth Art category by Logan Fousek of Farmyard Frenzy 4-H group, it was mounted on a rustic board and held up by precisely-cut leather straps.

I’d never seen anything like it at the fair.

Barnyard theme cakes were as well constructed and accurately decorated as any you’d see in the Showstopper round of “Great British Baking Show.” Another layer cake replicated fungi in an entry titled “Wild Mushrooms.”

One needs to step away from the midway and food court to see and appreciate these small gems. 

Such as the tutu. In my years of attending county fairs, I never recall seeing such a thing.

Leo Velour made the graceful garment and earned a blue ribbon for it.

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

A variety of residents tried their hand at transforming objects and materials into art and functional items, in the “Something For Nothing” category. Go and see this next year for glimpses of imagination and practicality joining forces.

I liked the immaculately-tailored zip-up garment bag made from a livestock feed bag by Isabelle Bernier of Country Critters 4-H.

I returned to the Lewis Pavilion on Friday, curious about the results of People’s Choice in the photography displays. After all, we had cast our ballots the night before.

I walked in to find a group of volunteers at a table counting the ballots, and got acquainted with photography superintendent Julie Carl. As they were wrapping up, Carl would next award her 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 Choices 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 images — indeed, I had a tough time deciding on my own vote — but lamented the declining numbers.

“A lot less,” she said. “People are getting away from printing photographs. They have all of them on their phones.” 

Declining entries is a problem reflected in the other Open Class exhibits, too: art, clothing, baked goods, collections, and more, according to Carl.

One answer, she felt, might come with the return to regular meetings of knitting, baking, or quilt-making clubs and organizations.

“How can we get members to start coming back? It’s a big thing,” she mused.

She presides over the Yamhill County Camera Club, with meetings starting up in September at 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursdays in the First Federal meeting room at 111 N.E. Third St. It’s open to anyone with an interest in sharing photos and giving and accepting feedback.

Groups that are reviving regular meetings, or have continued them and want to get word out, are free to send a short description with the meeting date, time and place, and a contact phone number or email, to

All of the county fair handcrafts, baked goods, clothing and other categories demonstrate skill and love of craft. And, according to Carl, there are some dedicated photographers in our midst.

She pointed to one photo of a cat that the entrant took moments after turning off his lawnmower. “ Yes, he had his camera with him while mowing the lawn,” she said.

Contact Kirby Neumann-Rea at or 503-687-1291.


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