Yep, it’s been a year. A year since I fractured four metatarsals running over home plate during the Old Fashioned Baseball game at West Linn’s Willamette Park, pitching distance from the Willamette River. Silly me – I should have just avoided the base and merely rung the bell, which is all that really counts in the baseball rules of 1880. Alas, as predicted in my previous post It’s because of the mayor, I did sit out on the bleachers during last night’s 2017 baseball game, eating a piece of blueberry pie adorned with a huge scoop of vanilla ice cream.
I grew up with Wilsonville’s Boone’s Ferry Days, back in the day when I begged to sit in the dunk tank and reluctantly agreed to sell 1880 ice cream bars to benefit our Camp Fire group. As fun as that fair may have been, I haven’t been back to it since the 1970’s. I can thank my historian buddy Larry McIntyre and the West Linn Historical Society for posting an article back in 2014 to include a bit of history of our town’s “signature event, West Linn’s Old Time Fair.” The same Larry who this year emceed the crowning of the Fair Queen, and introduced the parade’s Grand Marshall: Ed Bietschek, a man with true river history of logs and tugs.
Back when the fair tradition began, West Linn was a community of only 3000-plus, mostly driven by the Crown Zellerbach paper mill, a mill that still operates today as the West Linn Paper Company. Our earliest town’s fairs were events sponsored by the local Willamette Grange. By 1955 the Grange fair had become a success, and our community began to see potential for a larger event with broader community engagement, soliciting local merchants for funding and prizes. According to Larry, 1956 seemed to be the pivotal year as the Grange Fair morphed into the Community Fair, and ultimately the West Linn Fair. And although many other traditions also began then, the Willamette Methodist Church’s pie concession remains one of the most cherished of all the offerings – at least in my opinion. Blueberry, peach, boysenberry, chocolate…..you name it.
The annual baseball game between Willamette and the Portland Pioneers began a mere 11 or so years ago, as another idea to promote the centennial anniversary of our town. And those late 19th century rules were adopted: no gloves, no strike outs or walks, “outs” referred to as “hands,” and the tricky one: a caught fly after a single bounce is equivalent to catching it in the air. And, although that blueberry pie was delicious and I didn’t miss the fear of potentially being pelted by baseballs hit by men weighing many more pounds than me, a tinge of sadness filled me to not join the other players on the field this year. A sadness that has already faded this morning with a belly full of pancakes provided by our local Lions Club, a full-fledged parade…..and anticipation of another piece of pie. Peach, for sure.