|Gateway Fun-O-Rama cruises to Parkrose
A tale of two events: while the venerable Gateway Fun-O-Rama is still alive, the Parkrose Festival and Cruise-In meets its demise
THE MID-COUNTY MEMO
After existing for more than fifty years as a Gateway event-centered on and about Halsey Street between Northeast 102nd and 122nd Avenues-GABA's Fun-O-Rama has found an accommodating new site on the grounds at Parkrose High School Community Center campus, according to Fun-O-Rama coordinator and GABA board member Lou Fontana.
From its halcyon days in the 60s when it was a week long event that included a parade and carnival, through the 70s, 80s and into the early 90s, Fun-O-Rama has been redefined by organizers-more than a few times-since it was brought back in 2002. These days Fun-O-Rama is a one day event, comprised of a classic car cruise-in, a barbecue, live entertainment, children's activities and various community groups pitching in and using the event as a fundraiser.
Held the last few years at Parkview Christian Retirement Community (formerly Oregon Baptist Retirement Homes, where Fontana is the development and public relations director), Fun-O-Rama was timed to coincide with National Night Out in August.
With reconstruction happening at the Parkview Campus this year, it became untenable to host the 2010 Fun-O-Rama, so the GABA Board looked to move the event back to Halsey Street. The city came up with a price close to $20,000 for a parade permit and rental of a carnival site at Northeast 106th Avenue and Halsey Street, Gateway Park's future site. Because time was slipping away and sponsors are scarce these days, Fontana did not give it a second thought when Parkrose High School was suggested as an alternative site for the 2010 event.
Fontana, who defines Gateway's boundaries as 92nd to 135th Avenues between Southeast Market Street and Northeast Sandy Boulevard, said he is tickled with their new site for Fun-O-Rama at PHS and has already secured a date for next year's event - Sunday, July 31 - and a name: Fun-O-Rama Fair and Parkrose Cruise-In.
We're going to work on the name a little bit, Fontana said. But we want to enhance bringing back not only the Parkrose Cruise-In but the Fun-O-Rama and also basically what Parkrose [Business Association] was doing over on Sandy Boulevard with the National Night out - which they don't do that anymore either. We're kind of trying to bring back the whole thing. A car club, Northwest Motor Sports Association, will handle the entire cruise-in portion of the event he added.
Also part of the mix for the 2011 Fun-O-Rama Fair and Parkrose Cruise-In will be a food court, the Parkrose Farmers' Market; two more high school booster clubs, Reynolds and Gresham expressed interest in being involved, joining the two booster clubs from Parkrose and David Douglas. Through our connections to the Mt. Hood Festival of jazz, we're going to try and get a name Jazz singer to come and play a couple songs as a donation to the event, Fontana said.
Fontana welcomes everyone in Mid-county and especially the PBA to join the party. He encourages anyone interested in being involved to call him. He is taking applications now for vendors and from community groups for the 2011 Fun-O-Rama Fair and Parkrose Cruise-In; the Parkview Christian Retirement Community phone number is 503-255-7160. GABA's website is www.gabanet.com
Parkrose Festival and Cruise-In
Ostensibly begun to embellish fundraising for graduating Parkrose High School student scholarships, the Parkrose Business Association's Parkrose Festival Cruise-In blasted out of the starting gate in 2002 on the same fields at Parkrose High School where GABA is now holding the newly minted Fun-O-Rama Fair and Parkrose Cruise-In.
The following year, the Parkrose Festival Cruise-In garnered Rose Festival sanctioning, only to shed it a few years later because of the expense.
After building to a peak of nearly 300 classic and custom cars, event organizers-unhappy with repeat category winners-got new judges and different judging criteria. Hard-core cruise-in participants and aficionados quickly figured out this unannounced policy change and began choosing car shows run by car clubs where the best car or its component parts won based on merit, not politics. The final year, organizers took a novel approach, entrants judged themselves. Besides, being on school grounds meant there was no alcohol, a crucial ingredient for a successful cruise-in.
In the desire to be all things to all people, and in an attempt to move away from the just a cruise-in image, the organizers reshaped the event to make it more family friendly, but the more changes they introduced, the more unwieldy it became. They even tried catering to Americans' penchant for destruction. They brought in a tank to crush cars for event goers' amusement and raffled off guesses as to when cars would blow-up after having motor oil drained from the engines.
Due to the damage to the fields caused by this exuberance, and with the lack of thorough after-event clean-ups, the school district wasn't all that enthusiastic about having the extravaganza back. For this reason and a few others, after six years at the school, the event modified its name to the Parkrose Festival and Cruise-In and took the event to the street, literally. A blocked-off Sandy Boulevard, in the core business area in Parkrose, was the new home for the shape-shifting event.
A good idea in theory, it did not work well in practice.
Despite PBA President Wayne Stoll's claims to the contrary, more than one Sandy Boulevard business owner said they were never contacted by event organizers and briefed about the event, and were surprised to show up one day and see the street shut down.
Led to believe there would be a crush of people attending the event, many businesses welcomed the Festival. However, they soon discovered the trade-off of disrupting their business and closing Sandy Boulevard to just one direction for an entire Saturday. The hoped-for throngs of festival goers never materialized, and sales went south for the day.
Eventually a combination of forces including lack of a coordinator, dwindling business support, the bad economy and loss of the title sponsor spelled doom for the event. In eight years, the cruise-in helped fund 27 $1000 college scholarships to deserving Parkrose High School seniors. Without a major fundraising event, the PBA did award $1000 scholarships to six PHS graduating seniors this year (up from five last year), but will need to find a permanent funding mechanism to continue the practice. The Parkrose Business Association's website is parkrosebusiness.org.
Greater Gateway Boosters/Gateway Area Business Association and Fun-O-Rama: A Brief History
In its heyday, Fun-O-Rama Days was a five-day festival of carnival fun culminating with the Fun-O-Rama Parade-a funky, unique combination of a community and kids parade every May, just before the Rose Festival began its yearly run. Fun-O-Rama Days was the springtime mid-Multnomah County event for decades.
The arrival of Fun-O-Rama Days was a signal to kids that school was winding down, and parents looked forward to it because not many of them allowed their kids to go downtown unsupervised to the Rose Festival Fun Center miles away. They would for Fun-O-Rama, however, because the carnival site was the Fred Meyer parking lot in the old Gateway Shopping Center, close enough that kids could easily ride their bikes there.
The Fun-O-Rama Days carnival paid for not only the annual parade, but for an Easter Egg hunt, Little League sponsorships and sundry other community activities as well. The carnival was enough of a cash cow that the Gateway Boosters funded an annual budget for the Gateway Keystone Kops, a traveling bunch of merrymaking parade pranksters. Composed of hard-partying Booster members and Gateway merchants-many of them Fun-O-Rama organizers and sponsors themselves-they created slapstick, vaudevillian skits, making them a favorite of parade goers around the northwest in the 60s, 70s and 80s.
When the Gateway Shopping Center underwent redevelopment in the late 80s, the Boosters lost their carnival site. With the prime location's loss, it meant the gravy train was ending for the Boosters. Despite the carnival's continuation at different sites for a few more years, it eventually died. And as a new crop of Booster board members changed the group's name to Gateway Area Business Association in 1993, they also ended the parade in 1996, along with the Easter Egg Hunt and most of the community involvement and outreach the group was known for.
In 2002, GABA revived the parade, had a one-year return of a carnival in 2003, and added an existing community fair at Northeast 111th Ave. and a golf tournament to the Fun-O-Rama menu. The parade, community fair and golf tourney ran until 2008, before lack of sponsors, a dearth of volunteers and escalating costs from the city killed all these add-ons.
Fontana and some new board members took it upon themselves to revive and redefine the event that continues to roll on.
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