By GERRY STEELE
Of the Baker City Herald
Lots of smiles.
Lots of high fives.
And lots of good-natured ribbing.
Those were the high points of the first Shrine Day at the Baker County Fair Thursday afternoon.
andquot;I think it's a good thing,andquot; said Randall Eschler of Joseph, an East running back.
andquot;The cause for this event and the game is a very good cause. And, we're having a fun time for a fun cause.andquot; Eschler and the other 59 players for the East and West teams were guests of the Shriners and the Baker County Fair officials for a variety of competitions, games, and a tri-tip beef dinner.
Eschler said the players, who visited the Portland hospital last weekend before starting training camp at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande, had their eyes opened.
andquot;I think it was fun for the kids at the hospital, and it was a positive atmosphere,andquot; he said. andquot;And I think it was fun for the players too.andquot; Eschler said the two things he will remember most from his Shrine game experience is the hospital visit and making new friends.
andquot;I'll always remember the comradery,andquot; he said.
Can you make a moustache?
The first contest at the fair for the players was to see who could make the best milk moustache.
Many of the players shied away from the event, but eight hearty gridders gave it their best shot.
Myrtle Point's Matt Buche claimed the overall title, earning a gallon jug of milk for his trouble.
Buche walked away with the title in the first group of four. Sweet Home's Ricky Howe won the crown in the second group. Buche then nipped Howe for the overall championship.
What was Buche's secret?
andquot;You've got to hold it for a while and point your lip a little,andquot; he said. andquot;Not too much, or then it will rub off. You have to keep your head at a 30-to-60-degree angle, depending on the size of the moustache you want.andquot; Milking that wild cow
The second event was wild cow milking. Here five players had to drag a wooden cow resembling Santa's sleigh the length of the playing area with a designated andquot;milkerandquot; on board. The milker was a young boy or girl from the crowd.
Once the team reached the opposite end of the field, the milker had to attempt to get some milk from a bottle fastened on the side of the cow into a paper cup. Once that was accomplished the milker then had to run back to the starting line. The first milker crossing the line with enough milk in the cup to pour at least a drop on to the ground was the winner.
One East team was declared a winner of its heat, and owed it all to teamwork.
andquot;You just go as fast as you can,andquot; said milker David Ho, one of the volunteer managers from this year's Shrine teams.
andquot;You just give 110,andquot; said Baker's Tim Vaughan, an East running back. andquot;We knew we had a competitor on board. We were pretty confident.andquot; As if trying to help the milkers run faster on one return trip, the East's Tyler Coleman of Marist mounted a stick horse and spurred it on side by side with the runners. At the same time some of the teams on the fringe of the competition were receiving milking tips from people on the sidelines.
The final wild cow race pitted a team from the East against a team from the West. The rider had to be a team member and weigh at least 150 pounds. The East team won going away.
andquot;Team unity,andquot; shouted Elgin's Blake Eckstein, hoisting his arms over his head.
A little egg on your face
That, ironically, was a reality for the West's Kyle Negus of Paisley.
Negus had to get cleaned up while the competition wound down after an egg went through his hands and broke on the bridge of his nose right between his eyes.
Negus eventually returned, but had to take some good-natured ribbing from his teammates.
The teams, East and West queens and other volunteers competed in an old-fashioned egg toss. The object was to widen the space between teammates on each toss without breaking a raw egg.
The queens weren't going to participate at first, but after the urging of several of the players, they lined up. They started off slowly before West Queen Shelbi Keffer threw more of a line drive.
andquot;Not so hard,andquot; said East Queen Ashley Horn as she gingerly caught the egg.
Queen Shelbi's efforts also were hampered by the fact she had a number of rings on her fingers and didn't have time to remove them before starting the competition. The queens didn't do too badly, but came up short of winning when Queen Shelbi let the egg slip out of her hands and break on the ground.
A hearty tri-tip dinner
Following all that exercise, the players and other fairgoers were treated to a tri-tip dinner with all the trimmings.
The dinner was sponsored by the Baker Quarterback Club and Baker County Unlimited.
Cook Dan Warnock said he brought 140 pounds of Oregon Country Beef supplied by the ranch co-operative.
andquot;We are prepared for 250 people, and about a half-pound each,andquot; he said. andquot;That's kind of thumb rule.andquot; Warnock cooked the beef on an old, converted steam engine he said has been in the Warnock family for 70 or 80 years.
andquot;It was in our junk pile on the ranch,andquot; he said. andquot;We finally got around to doing something constructive with it.andquot;
The dinner, which also included baked potatoes, salad and dessert, was served by Quarterback Club members and Baker High School football players. Proceeds go toward Baker 5J athletic programs.
Don't forget Saturday
The annual Baker County Cattlemen's breakfast is set from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the Baker County Fairgrounds. Cost is $7.
The annual Shrine parade will wind its way through Baker City at 10:30 a.m.
The 52nd annual East-West game will be played at Bulldog Memorial Stadium Saturday. Pre-game pageantry begins at 6 p.m. amd kickoff at 7 p.m.