Beaverton’s Biggest Party, 1980

May 18, 2016 7:03 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

by Ann Koppy

A new family-friendly endeavor began in fall 1978 as a City of Beaverton Open House that invited residents to familiarize themselves with municipal facilities and employees. Mayor Jack Nelson had earlier proclaimed July as Good Neighbor Days (GND), promoting the idea of block parties to celebrate neighborliness, build a stronger community, and encourage consideration for fellow citizens.

The one-day happening near City Hall, then located at SW 5th Street and SW Hall Boulevard, highlighted tours, stories, bicycle education, hot dogs and popcorn, Hillbilly Bottle Band, rides in the city’s 1935 fire engine, street disco dance sponsored by KGW Radio, and dunk tank. The city expected it to grow the following year. The expectation became a reality; it expanded significantly over the next two decades, taking its place as the city’s signature event.

It may have been inspired by an idea originated by a Montana woman in the 1970s to foster a sense of unity, form friendships, and help those who live nearby. President Jimmy Carter signed Proclamation 4601, setting September 24, 1978 as the first National Good Neighbor Day. It’s still observed throughout the United States every September.

The free celebration increased to three days in September 1979 to accommodate a larger number of doings. Added were a pancake breakfast, essay and poster contest open to students in grades 4-8 sponsored by the Beaverton School District, and bands. Booths were limited to non-profit organizations, however. Its new site was Evelyn Schiffler Park on SW Erickson Street, where it would remain throughout its lifespan.

Calling itself “Beaverton’s Biggest Party”, the 1980 gathering attracted about 15,000 people, adding a 10,000 meter run, Bike-A-Rama, and Gardeners’ Harvest Festival. That was the year Nancy Ryles, Beaverton’s First Citizen, was parade Grand Marshal. There was more: a mush ball game, pioneers’ ice cream social, and about 80 booths, which now included arts/crafts, food, and games. Robbie Robinson, the Ridge Runners and other professionals supplied lively musical entertainment; off site, the Elsie Stuhr Center hosted an Old Time Fiddlers’ Hoedown. None of this would have been successful without generous funding from local merchants, grants, Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District, and hundreds of hours volunteered by City of Beaverton employees who staffed the municipal booth, assisted wherever needed, and ran the Bingo tent. B.E.A.C.H. (Beaverton Employees Against Christmas Hunger) used the proceeds to support 20-30 families every Christmas with food and presents delivered to their homes.

Every year brought more festivities and concerts. Good Neighbor of the Year, baby crawl, historic displays, triathlon, chili cook-offs (the winner was crowned Women’s State Champion), and Rusty Nails, Portland’s beloved clown and TV show host were a part of the vibrant mix. A diverse assortment of top-notch musicians entertained: Who can forget Curtis Salgado and The Stilettos, Five Guys Named Moe, Portland Youth Philharmonic and ethnic music and dance? Nevertheless, changes were in the air.

Another festival called Taste of Beaverton produced by Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce had debuted in 1989. The two major events were held separately until summer 1996 when they merged and GND faded into city history.

Interested in more local history? Visit the Beaverton History Society or go to: www.historicbeaverton.org

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This post was written by Michael Wong

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