A coastal county fair in the rain

A Sunday afternoon in July. The sky is gray, and it’s raining on the last day of the Lincoln County Fair. I see people walking around in their hoodies, a guy in the grandstand singing and playing guitar, not a soul in the audience. Everything is half empty and tired-looking: ponies waiting for somebody to ride them; carnival rides, half running, one little boy in the lady bug cars; pigs, cows and sheep in the animal barn, unaware that they’re future food; chickens, goats, and rabbits, a duck swimming in a plastic pool; back exhibit hall almost empty, a few knit and crocheted items and one case of baked breads and pies. The main hall echoes with a guy giving violin demos as people wander past booths selling jewelry and kitchen knives or advertising local causes, and stare at the snakes and lizards in the reptile exhibit. Outside, a few people line up to buy elephant ears and sausage dogs. There’s nothing happening in the rodeo area. Best action is at the Pick of the Litter thrift store where I scored some 50-cent CDS, $1 picture frames and a piano book. Like the buildings it occupies, the county fair is tired and falling apart, but it keeps going.


Christmas Shopping at Newport’s Bizarre Bazaars

Bazaars are bizarre, at least here on the Oregon coast and probably in every small town in America, and they are happening right now as we scramble to buy Christmas presents before it’s too late. I had this plan on Saturday to do all of my Christmas shopping in one day, plus writing out my cards and decorating the house. I didn’t quite make it. Okay, I barely got started.

But I did shop. I started my Christmas marathon at the cemetery, switching from the blue flowers on my husband’s and in-laws’ niches to the Christmas flowers. That put me right in the middle of where everybody was going that day, between the Farmer’s Market, Pick of the Litter Thrift Store, and the first annual Chocolate Coffee Christmas Classic, not just a bazaar but a “holiday expo” being held at Newport Intermediate School.  Oh, and the Eagle’s Lodge was having a sale, too.
The Farmer’s Market has moved into the big hall at the Lincoln County fairgrounds for the winter (Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.). Inside, I found the usual conglomeration of handknitted scarves, jewelry, photographs, a lonely author hawking his books, bread, pizza, produce, plants, homemade jam, and miscellaneous art made out of wood, glass, shells, and rocks.
Pick of the Litter, one of the best thrift stores around, supports the Friends of the Lincoln County Animal Shelter. Also at the fairgrounds, it was jammed with people perusing its collection of used clothing, books, CDs, kitchen supplies, and doodads of all sorts. Some were also buying copies of the FOLCAS calendar, featuring local pets. My Annie’s picture is in the upper left-hand corner of November 2013.
The Eagles Lodge sale on Olive Street, held in the dark meeting hall, was more like a garage sale. Paperback books for a quarter, Avon jewels and potions for “best offer,” handmade ornaments and more scarves. Pretty low key.
The star of the day for me was at the Chocolate Coffee Christmas classic. The intermediate school parking lot was jammed with cars as I parked and made my way past the donation station. Proceeds from from the expo benefitted Lincoln County School District’s HELP program for homeless students, the Newport Food Pantry and the Samaritan House homeless shelter.
Picture this: booths offering chocolate samples and coffee everywhere you look, interspersed with other booths offering candles, Christmas tree ornaments with nautical themes, scrapbooks, jewelry, coffee mugs, knitted, crocheted and quilted gifts, goat milk soap, glass floats, pop bottles melted into ashtrays, bright orange OSU and green U of O glass business card holders, photographs of beach scenes and sea birds, fabric angels, tote bags and purses, more ornaments, feather earrings, more jewelry, shoppers in spangled baseball caps, and little old ladies knitting, crocheting, beading, gluegunning,processing Visa cards on cardboard-box tables, urging you to taste, taste, taste and buy, buy, buy. And I did, did, did. My bag got so heavy in the first room I had to take it out to the car before I visited the gymnasium. I think it was the candles embedded with rocks that did me in.
I only hit a small portion of the sales happening that day. I missed Holiday House on the  Bayfront, St. Stephen’s chowder luncheon and sale, the holiday craft sale at the Connie Hansen garden, the 11th Hour Santa Sale in Lincoln City, and the 85th annual Yachats Ladies Club Bazaar. Too much!
Now granted, the people on my Christmas list might not want another handknitted scarf or a melted-bottle ashtray or yet another lighthouse ornament. Too bad. We don’t have a mall. We have bazaars. Wait’ll they see what I got them this year. 
The photo above shows some of my own treasures that came from past bazaars.
(Hey, wondering what to get people? Maybe they’d like to read one of my books: Shoes Full of Sand, Childless by Marriage, Stories Grandma Never Told, Azorean Dreams, Freelancing for Newspapers. Peruse my bookstore page at http://www.suelick.com/Products.html. Books are easy to mail and easy to wrap.)

Sunshine and cheese on the Oregon Coast

“Enjoy the sunshine,” our waitress at the Pelican Pub in Pacific City told us as we finished our delicious lunch. My brother Mike and his wife Sharon cracked up. “Why does everybody talk about the weather around here?” Mike asked.
The waitress, a friendly but disorganized coastie, explained that we haven’t seen much sun this year. We’ve had rain, snow and wind so intense the parking lot is still covered over with sand that blew in off the beach. As she spoke, the sun was muted by clouds, but she still deemed it a good day because it wasn’t raining and the temperature was up to almost 60.
Mike shook his head. Where he lives in California, it’s in the 90s now and the sun shines every day.
While Mike and Sharon visited, we were blessed with mostly sunny days and only a few spritzes of rain. On our first day together, we headed north to Tillamook. Mike wanted to taste some cheese. But I think he really wanted to taste the ice cream. This is a good time to visit the Tillamook Cheese Factory. Tourist season has not quite started, so it isn’t crowded. Just inside the front door, Sharon inhaled the pungent mix of cheese, sugar and caramel corn. “It smells so good in here!”

We headed up the stairs to the viewing area where we could watch men and women in white clothes and hairnets turning 40-pound blocks of cheese into one- and two-pound loafs. What would it be like to do that all day with people watching, we wondered. As a computer kiosk babbled about sending “cheesemail” to one’s friends, we checked out the displays that described how they make their cheese and ice cream.
The Tillamook Cheese Factory is all about marketing. The short factory tour leads past a tasting area into a room full of cheese to buy, plus a gift shop, cafe and ice cream counter. People were lined up about 12 deep when Mike got in line for his marionberry cone.
“We can get this stuff at the grocery store,” I kept telling my loved ones. Nah, not the same, they said.
From the cheese factory, we drove north a ways, stopping at a Jerky factory outlet, TCS Jerky.com. There’s also a sausage factory, Debbie D’s, in town. Apparently, people are eager to get on the “factory” bandwagon.

Mike had a yen to see the bay north of town, so we took a turn at Garibaldi, where the wind whipped our hair and clothes so hard we paused only long enough to take pictures before turning back toward home.

Our next traveling day, we stayed local, stopping at the cemetery, Pick of the Litter Thrift Store and the shops on the Bayfront before a big enchilada dinner at home.

My visitors are gone now, and I miss them. Annie does, too. Auntie Sharon bought her peanut butter treats and gave her terrific head massages with her long nails.
Today the clouds have rolled back in. Feels like home.