As residents of Newberg gradually descended on the city's south side Thursday evening to kick off another year of the Old Fashioned Festival, each family, couple or group of friends seemed to head there for something different.
Some families wrangled their costumed children to walk in the kids' parade, others came to watch the procession with their very small children; some went directly to the Renne Field tennis courts for the dog costume contest while others headed straight to Memorial Park for food and live music.
Yet, perhaps the deeper reason for many was best displayed later that evening when Dallas O'Bryan and Liam Hathaway saw one another in Memorial Park and gave each other a long bear hug with big smiles across their faces, their first encounter since graduating from Newberg High School in May.
"Just seeing everybody," O'Bryan said, is the best part of the festival. "That's exactly it, it's reconnecting with everybody you see … Most of the time people are isolated like we are. We don't see each other or talk very often, but when we see each other, it's the greatest thing and this is one of those times."
That sense of reconnecting with friends and neighbors pervaded across the city's south side for four days as residents – as well as visitors – came together to enjoy food, music, carnival games, rides and a host of other activities.
While the carnival was already swarming with Newberg's youth early in the evening Thursday, families began arriving by the dozens by 6 p.m. for the traditional kids' parade on opening night.
As the many families lined up, parents tried to keep tabs on their costumed children – many boys dressed as public servicemen and abdominally-defined superheroes, while girls often stuck to traditional dancers, princesses and Disney characters.
Maia and Mckinlee Kubik were among the later, dressed as Moana and her rooster sidekick HeiHei as mother Rachael Kubik stood watch over their wagon, converted into a Hawaiian seafaring canoe for the occasion.
Coming off of their princess theme last year, Kubik said they had been plotting all year what to do for this one.
"It wasn't until like two weeks ago we were like 'Moana!'… So, we were like 'the wagon is the perfect boat and we've already got the costume' – and then I came up with the chicken in like five minutes," she said. "It's just really fun and a chance to be creative, think of something different."
Mark Jackson, strolling with his wife Tina behind daughter Audrey driving ahead in a small pink Jeep, saw a deeper reason for the small parade's importance.
"This is generations coming up, and how many kids are here is incredible. I mean, you really see the heart of this community is the youth here and it's not shirking, it's growing," he said. "You do stuff like this… and 20 years from now, hopefully you have a bigger and better community."
Dog costume contest
The kids' parade's short lap gave way to the annual dog costume contest, where residents came to show off their canines and the clever ways they had dressed them – from Underdog, a ballerina or a race horse with mane and jockey attached.
"Just doing it makes it fun," said Madison Brooks, 10, who wore matching knit sweaters with family dog Bailey. "Because you have fun making the costumes and then you go out to the competition and it doesn't matter if you win. It just matters if you have fun."
Both Bailey and Stetson, shown by her 12-year-old brother David, took home awards.
Showing off Marley – decked in "party animal" garb of a Bud Light box, pajamas and another stuffed dog hanging on the back – Kelly Perry and Brian Behner reflected on how the festival brings out the small-town feel that drew them to settle here.
"I think I really like the small town (feel) of Newberg, that's why I love it here," Perry said.
"Sense of community," Behner chimed in.
While the events were well underway by 8 p.m., the festival officially kicked off with the coronation of Queen Alexis Hayes at the Memorial Park Stage, who also saw people as the true value to the festival.
"I think for me, the most, I love seeing how the community comes together," she said minutes after being crowned. "And obviously there's the carnival and the music and the booths, but aside from that I think it's getting together with all of your family and friends and having some good bonding time while enjoying the festival."
If they hadn't already, the community certainly came together Saturday morning as one could scarcely find an unfilled patch of curb, grass, driveway or roadway on the route of the annual Grand Festival Parade, which started at 10 a.m.
Among those filling in as the parade was about to start was Bernardo Izquierdo and Georgia Cook, a recent graduate and senior, respectively, at St. Paul High School, who were carrying on a years-long tradition of attending the Newberg parade.
"We have our St. Paul Fourth of July parade, but this one is special," Izquierdo said. "It brings the community together. It gives you a sense of community and just everyone coming together and putting on this big event. It's great, it really symbolizes Newberg."
The parade featured floats and vehicles representing local officials from the city, county and Chehalem Park and Recreation District as well as local law enforcement, fire departments, joined by local fixtures of the community like George Fox University and the 99W Drive-In Cameo Theatre.
From the Yamhill County Sheriff's Office Posse to the Anvil Academy horse-drawn carriage, the many horses in the parade were a big part of the small-town feel Jeremy and Christy Stewart brought their three daughters down from Chehalem Mountain to experience.
In addition to that, though, they said it's the unity in the community they see with the parade that keeps them coming back every year.
"The whole town is out there together, enjoying something that they didn't necessarily need to come out to. It's voluntary, everyone comes out by choice on a Saturday morning," Jeremy said.
"It's friendly, it's laid back," Christy Stewart added. "Yeah, you just feel like you're part of a family together."