Event offered a muddy good time

By Joshua Dillen

Even though huckleberries are what North Powder's annual festival is famous for and named after, it very well could have been named the Mud Festival - for at least part of the afternoon.

On Saturday for the first time ever, North Powder'sSeventh-Annual Huckleberry Festival included an afternoon mud volleyball tournament. Jeff Grende, owner of Grende Heating and Air and director of the double- elimination tournament, was very satisfied with the turnout.

"It's been a real great time and a lot of people showed up," said Grende.

Five teams entered to compete in the muddy straw bale-lined court that was at the south end of E Street. There were plenty of people watching the muddy digs as players got stuck in the mud going for the slippery ball.

Erik "Ugly" Knowles, carpenter, from North Powder enjoyed watching the competition along with about 100 other spectators.

"This was a pretty good redneck idea," Knowles said.

The champions of the tournament were members of the Powder Club team sponsored by the local tavern of the same name. They only lost one game in the tournament. The second-place team was called Bingmar (made up of the Bingham and Martin families) and third place went to the Muddiggers, a last-minute entry.

Kelly Aldrich, owner of the Powder Club bar, shed some light on why the first-place team did so well.

"There were a few of North Powder's high school state volleyball champions on the team," Aldrich said.

North Powder Mayor Bonita Hebert said that in spite of the construction taking place in town, "it went pretty smooth."

Festival attendees started off the day with a breakfast at the North Powder School.

The downtown streets were lined with booths that had wares from jewelry to health products and plenty of food. At midday, there was a parade that had children getting squirted with water from fire trucks and supersoaker-armed kids on the floats. Lots of candy was tossed at the eager youngsters waiting to get their hands on the sugary treats.

Entertainment was provided for most of the day at the city park by the water tower. Live music was provided by the Blue Mountaineers, Clay Chapin and Margie Mays. There was also a live puppet show that delighted children and adults.

The popular huckleberry dessert contest's grand dessert award went to Marny Martin of North Powder for her huckleberry sorbet. Joan McDaniel of Heppner, who was raised at North Powder, entered several desserts and received the grand reserve prize for a jarred huckleberry cobbler.

Janet Dodson is the organizer for the contest and said the judges thought every dessert was delicious. Huckleberries are very important to her family who have been in the town since the 1860s. She loves them in desserts but especially likes them fresh from the bush.

"I used to never eat them when I was picking them," said Dodson. "But now that I'm older, why waste the opportunity when they are best?"

All of the desserts were sold to the highest bidder at a live auction at the fire station dinner. A huckleberry cheesecake went for $60 to Joan McDaniel, whose mother Betty Cristman, created the tasty dessert. There was quite a bidding war at play for the cheesecake.

"I would have gone higher than $60 if I had to," said McDaniel.

The dinner offered a choice between a hot dog meal for $5 or a tri-tip dinner that included potato salad, baked beans and a dinner roll for $8. Both dinners included a huckleberry chocolate or white cake and lemonade. Diners could eat until they had enough. Local firemen manned the grill that cooked the tri-tip and hotdogs.

To finish the day off, Mark Stratton, Lost Creek Road, performed live for an inaugural street dance at the festival Saturday evening.