In a rust red-colored livestock shelter in the heart of Scio, past the lamburger stand and after the Main Street parade themed “return of the lambs” Saturday morning, Avanlee Oberson finally found a real, live lamb.
The 10-year-old from Scio touched the yearling sheep May 21 during Linn County Lamb and Wool Fair and observed that the fibers did, in fact, feel like a wool blanket.
Sunday during the weekend-long festival was set aside for judging lambs. But handler Olivia Christie, 11, said Saturday’s priority, while crowds milled between vendors and sat on tiered benches ahead of musical performances, was simply to put the lambs in the lamb fair.
“This is Beans,” Olivia said. “We’re just showing her to kids.”
Around her, the town of few more than 1,000 was becoming reacquainted with its hallmark community gathering after two years off.
Alex Traeger grew up in the area, moved away, married, and then came back to live in Albany. He was trying to fit the tongue-carved face of a glob of soft-serve ice cream into his mouth, under his dark mustache, but ended up with bright drops of dairy in his facial hair.
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Traeger had been looking forward to this.
“The dairy women have the best ice cream,” he said.
Katherine Traeger, the woman married to Alex, also grew up in Scio and described the fair as a return to something familiar. She said she grew up with the fair as a yearly staple before moving to Los Angeles to pursue fashion.
The Lamb and Wool Fair launched her career at 14, she said.
“My first fashion show was right over here on the stage,” Katherine Traeger said.
A quick shuttle ride away, working dogs were chasing sheep in a pasture at Wolston Farms. The farm typically holds a sanctioned sheep dog trial during fair weekend, the Northwest Championship.
Contestants will attend a trial every weekend, if they can afford it, hoping to score enough official points to qualify for national finals in Arizona.
Bob, a border collie, tried to split off several sheep from a flock — careful work that demonstrates precision to the judges. The crowd groaned and gasped as one designated sheep refused to split, running to return to the group that Bob and handler Ron Green of Washington had worked to carefully divide.
Back in town, on South Main Street, seated on the bridge crossing Thomas Creek, Jim Meek was surrounded by two subsequent generations of Meeks for the start of the parade.
Meek said his family had moved from Los Angeles to Lebanon in the ‘90s and had sat near that spot for this parade almost every year since. Son Chris Meek, and Chris’ son Ezra Meek, 7, were peering south along Main Street, looking out for the firetruck at the head of the procession.
Confetti poured from floats, horse-mounted posses were announced by the clap of hooves on asphalt and an inflatable flailing-arm tube man flailed.
Ezra and Charlie Goins, 6, both lunged for polypropylene-wrapped candy that glimmered briefly in the air, tossed from passing parade entrants, scooped up and shoved in the boys’ pockets.
Nearby, one man joked about the title of the event.
“If the theme is return of the lambs, were the last two years the silence of the lambs?”
Alex Powers (he/him) covers business, environment and healthcare for Mid-Valley Media. Call 541-812-6116 or email [email protected]