The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

Harvest-Time Community: Residents gather at annual festival for fun – and pie


October 10, 2017

Sixth-grader Alaina King competes in a pie-eating contest during Saturday's Harvest Festival. Photos by Sean C. Morgan

If you need to eat a piece of pie faster than everyone else, experience pays off.

It certainly provided the edge for winners in Saturday’s Harvest Festival pumpkin pie-eating contest.

All practice regularly – they eat.

“Just devour it in one bite,” said Aiyana Grimes, who won the eighth-grade division. “I do practice. I practice eating a lot. I eat lots of food all the time.”

Hunter Grant, a junior, beat out two competitors in the high school division.

“You just eat it,” he said sagely, but also puts in practice time. “I eat a lot of food. It helps.”

Yet the dozens of other competitors from kindergarten through adult also eat regularly, so the secret to eating pies at a winning pace remains shrouded in mystery.

The Harvest Festival staff still had a lot of pie left after the youth divisions, and Justin Barnett of Lebanon won an impromptu adult pie-eating contest.

“There really is no secret,” Barnett said, as bits of crust dusted his beard. “Just eat it, fast as you can, and choke on it later. The secret is no regrets, no shame.”

Whatever the winning formula, the kids and their families laughed and had a good time.

Except for participants in the last-minute adult division, winners received a certificate and pumpkin pie as prizes.

The other winners were Eturnyti Allison, third grade, in the kindergarten through third-grade division, with runner-up Rivers Taylor, third grade; Jadyn Ocheltree, fifth grade, in the fourth- through sixth-grade division, with runner-up Madison Lytle, fifth grade; and Payton Brookfield, 10, in an extra open children’s division.

Elsewhere at Sankey Park, Sweet Home residents and visitors shopped at vendors located on the bridge and around the parking area. Chafin Farms provided hayrides. Children checked out patrol cars and fire trucks with help from firefighters and police Explorers.

Gourley family sold inexpensive bags of kettle corn, while city employees gave away popcorn, drinks and hot dogs to visitors.

The Knights of Veritas set up a hands-on display and explained medieval armor and weapons.

Games of tug o’ war and miniature golf were under way at the playground, while Sweet Home High School band and choir students operated an instrument petting zoo, giving children a first look at a variety of wind and percussion instruments.

It was the 11th annual Harvest Festival, an event started by city staff for fun – initially to bring attention to Weddle Bridge when it needed repairs and painting and continued to bring people into the park.

The event absorbed the spring Birds and Bees festival where the Tree Commission sold seedlings. Today, the Tree Commission sells older plants to help pay for its activities, which include expanding Sweet Home’s urban forest.

The commission set up a table near Weddle Bridge.

“We have about 20 different species of trees and shrubs,” said Alice Smith, a member of the Tree Commission and botanist with the Sweet Home Ranger District. “We have about 100 total plants, from giant sequoia to ferns.”

The larger plants were those that didn’t sell at last year’s Harvest Festival, Smith said. “They’re the same price, but they’re twice the size.”

The Tree Commission sale usually does well, she said.

“We’re providing education and information,” said Lena Tucker, chairwoman of the Tree Commission and Oregon Department of Forestry division chief with the private forest program, which includes urban forestry. Sweet Home has been a Tree City for 30 years for its urban forest and is working on its 31st year, a length of time few cities have achieved.

The urban forest includes the remnant Douglas fir forest people were enjoying Saturday at Sankey Park, Tucker said. The urban forest provides habitat for wildlife, and it improves the community aesthetically.

The Tree Commission’s activities include Arbor Day celebrations and a poster contest. The winner of the poster contest gets a tree planted at his or her school.

The commission also plants Celebration Trees with plaques, street trees and trees at school. For information about those programs, call the city planning office at (541) 367-8113 or stop by City Hall, 1140 12th Ave.

Tree commissioners also evaluate trees if residents are concerned about a tree in their yards, Tucker said. The commission can make recommendations about whether a tree needs a licensed arborist to take a look at it.

Across the parking lot inside the gazebo, children took turns decorating free pumpkins.

“I’m making a cyclops,” said Colton Gleave, 7.

“He plays a lot of video games,” said his sister Raia Gleave, 10.

Hannah McCluskey sat across from him working on “The Starry Night.”

“It’s a famous painting by Van Gogh,” she said. “I like how it’s interesting, nothing you see every day.”

Meanwhile Colton Gleave continued to imagine new ways to describe his creation, settling for the moment on calling it a “girl spider football player.”

On the bandstand, Samuel Becerra of Eugene wore the regalia of the Aztecs as he demonstrated a wide variety of hand-made flutes and instruments used by the ancient peoples of the Mexico City area.

The performer works as an artist-in-residence in schools and for arts councils up and down the Willamette Valley. He works with students building flutes from clay and learning about the instruments.

The flutes are examples of the mathematics the Aztecs and the Mayans used, he said. Each one, crafted from clay with other natural materials, had to have precise angles and diameters to create he sounds its creator desired.

The craft is difficult, and in the cases of some kinds of flutes, he said he must make up to 20 or even 30 attempts – in the case of porcelain – to build a viable flute.

“It takes patience,” Becerra said. “A lot of patience to build a flute.”

Born in Mexico City, he used to perform Latin folk music regularly. When he discovered “pre-Columbian” music, he was in love.

Because the instruments are so expensive, he had to build his own, he said.

“It took about a year and a half in just research before I got my hands on clay.”

City Planning Assistant Katie Wilcox, who organized the event, was pleased with the way the event turned out.

“Excellent,” she said. “We had more staff this year. We had more volunteers.”

That helped streamline the event, and everything went smoothly, Wilcox said. Overall, it was a nice, mellow festival.

The pie-eating contest was a hit and “I honestly was surprised,” Wilcox said. “I think everybody loved that.”

The pie-eating contest had not been held in several years.

The face-painting line “is crazy ridiculous,” Wilcox said. Face painting was provided again this year by Earth Fairy.

That line stayed steady all day. The only comparable line was the Chafin Farms wagon ride, which would shorten quickly as the wagon was unloaded and reloaded after each ride.

She said the instrument petting zoo “is so cool.” Wilcox heard a lot of kids picking up and trying instruments.

Everything wasn’t quite rainbows and unicorns though. Things looked a little rough before the festival opened at 10 a.m.

Vendors and customers line Weddle Bridge during the festival.

Though rain fell during the morning while vendors were setting up, Wilcox said, “it stopped around the time the festival started.”

She expressed appreciation to the Oregon Jamboree for providing canopies and the Chamber of Commerce for tables.

She didn’t have a count on how many people showed up, she said.

“I know we got 700 hot dogs, and those are almost gone. We’ve got 600 pumpkins, and those are getting really low.”


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