Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

By Joshua Dillen


Giant floating hamster balls were one of the favorite attractions during Miners Jubilee.

For the kids, anyway.

Youngsters at Geiser-Pollman Park had the opportunity to bounce and roll around on water inside huge clear plastic bubbles.

"It was crazy fun," said Corah Downing, 10, of Baker City.

Her mother, Shannon Downing, filmed the bubble fun that Corah and her brother, Lance, 4, were having.

Kids also had a chance to pan for and keep real gold at the Eastern Oregon Mining Association's (EOMA) mining demonstration. Milton Curtis, a family practice doctor from Kenmore, Wash., said his family attends the Jubilee most years with his grandchildren. Curtis' grandson, Andrew Reeve, 10, proudly displayed a small plastic bag filled with water and several flakes of gold.

"I like it when you actually get rewarded and get the gold," Reeve said. "Panning for gold is my favorite thing here."

Another popular event was the EOMA State Gold Panning Championships. Three shiny brass nuggets of "gold" were placed deep inside a pan of gravel and dirt for new and experienced gold pannersto find. Donovan Jividen, 14, from Bend won the amateur competition. Shane Boettcher from Baker City won the professional contest with a time of 35.47 seconds.

Boettcher, a local artist, said he appreciates that the EOMA educates young and old people alike about mining.

"It gives the public a good view of mining," he said. "There's not a lot of people doing it; the gold is still out there."

A carnival at the fairgrounds; a free family fun area at Geiser-Pollman Park including bounce houses, games, arts and crafts; and a dunk booth provided by Baker Mat Club that funds middle school and high school wrestling were just some of the other family friendly activities to be enjoyed by all ages at the citywide celebration.

There was a blacksmithing demonstration next to the Baker Heritage Museum that was a popular stop in the 90-degree weather. The metallic clanking sounds made by blacksmith Gary Lewis as he hammered raw metal on his anvil mixed well with the chugging of the tractor display nearby.

"A hot day smithing is better than a cold day working," Lewis said as he transformed a piece of orange hot iron into a decorative coat hook.

At previous Jubilees, Lewis performed his educational demonstrations at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. He is very passionate that people, especially children are aware of how simple items like nails and such would not have been possible without a blacksmith back when the pioneers were first settling the West.

The bed races made a watery return to the Jubilee this year. The unusual spectacle has been missed for several years, but made a splash on First Street between Broadway and Church Streets after an absence of several years.

One race that was different than past races was the Chinese Fire Drill. Four pushers and one rider to each team race to the center line of the course on their beds. They all have to run around the bed twice then start throwing water balloons at each other. The wettest team loses.

Morgan Griffith, a teller at US Bank, her husband Joe Griffith and their daughter, Shelby Griffith were on the team that won the Chinese Fire Drill face.

Shelby, 10, said "It was awesome and cool."

Five thousand good deeds were the work of Blue Mountain Baptist Church in the park over on Friday and Saturday. By early afternoon on Saturday, that was how many bottles of ice cold water Pastor Scott Knox and church volunteers had given away. Knox was excited about their simple act of kindness.

"We're trying to show the love of the Lord in a very simple way," he said. "We live in a great community and it's great to give back in a small way."

Representatives from Mother Lode Wines were at the Heritage Museum to let folks sample their hand-crafted wines. Travis Cook, founder and wine maker at the winery near Keating, has a passion for wine and wants to educate people in Eastern Oregon about his craft.

"I have to convince everyone that Coors Light and whiskey aren't the only things to drink," Cook said.

Interested and fascinated by the spirits grapes produce since he was 12, Cook pursued enology and viticulture (enology is the science and study of all aspects of wine and wine-making except vine-growing and grape-harvesting, which is a sub field called viticulture) at Oregon State University in Corvallis. He holds a bachelor of science degree in horticulture.

Mother Lode Wines has a three-acre vineyard near Keating. Cook said he manages a couple of hundred acres of grapes in the Willamette Valley.

The highlights of the weekend evenings were Friday's Bronc Riding and Saturday's Bull Riding Blowouts. After the dusty spectacles, hundreds of thirsty rodeo attendees overtook the Bronc and Bull Riding Beer Garden to cap their evenings with dancing till 1 a.m.