MILTON-FREEWATER - The annual Muddy Frogwater Country Classic Festival is many things to many people: fundraising source, community awareness forum, arena for champions and most of all a place for an estimated 6,000 people to have fun this weekend.
For the Milton-Freewater Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the three-day event that ends today, it's a chance to raise $10,000 through concession space rentals, T-shirt and other memorabilia sales and its biggest fundraiser, the Sunday corn feed.
"It's an odd menu. One that was made up years ago," Executive Director Cheryl York said about the famous feed that includes two roasted ears of corn served with a hot dog, drink, watermelon and coleslaw. Cost is $7 or $5 a plate, depending on whether you want all the accompaniments.
Another group that regularly raises funds at Muddy Frogwater is the MacLaughlin High School track team. But this year it offered something different. Caramel dippers are a regular treat at track meets, so supporters decided to try a run at Muddy Frogwater.
"People with dentures and braces and stuff like it. They can still have this because their teeth don't get stuck," Jennifer Milleson said, pointing out why they had already sold close to 50 sliced apples drizzled with caramel.
Of course, the majority of the people who were raising funds were entrepreneurs selling items like cotton candy, grilled sausages, deep fried funnel cakes or even five-minute turns in a roped-off garden of several bouncy rides.
Then there were those who weren't so interested in raising funds but raising awareness. Among the organizations with a social cause reaching out to the thousands at the festival was the Blue Mountain Alliance, with its slogan of "No Blades in the Blues."
The Milton-Freewater Water Control District also had a booth this year, along with its no-frills slogan of "Save Our Levee."
There were also those who came not to raise awareness, but to raise their heads high in victory.
Each year, the festival includes a number of contests for kids and adults. Among them is the traditional crowd pleaser, the watermelon-eating contest, which took place around noon on Saturday at the main stage.
The first round of the famed eating contest, which was also when the youngest contestants competed, was won by Riley Chester, 11, who was cheered on by family for a close win against five others kids.
"Keep going Riley. Go nio," Chester's family yelled at him, as he scooped down to the white rind of a gigantic slice of Hermiston Seedless in about two minutes.
The second round, for older kids, was won by Michael Taylor, 12, who had a strategy going into his match.
"I just really like watermelon. And I have been running around all day and I haven't eaten. And it's close to lunch time. So I am ready," Taylor said.
But it was the ringer from Spokane, who came to town to visit friends, who took the crowd by surprise with her voracious appetite and the win.
Leefen Guo looked a little out of place, as the seemingly shy and mild mannered Asian girl of 17 sat at the adult contestants' table.
"I thought I was going to look so silly," Guo said later, as she clutched her winnings of $10 and searched for her prize T-shirt at the memorabilia booth.
None of the adult contestants had a chance. And neither did Taylor and Chester in the finals, as Guo scooped huge mouthfuls of the fruit into her mouth and then went back for more.
"She can put down some food for a teenager," family friend Wayne Stiller said.
"I love watermelon," Guo added.
The third and final day of the Milton-Freewater Muddy Frogwater Festival takes place today and includes a softball tournament, 8 a.m.; church service, 9 a.m.; corn roast, 11:30 a.m.; talent show finals, noon; and the famous firemen's waterfight, 3-4 p.m.
Entrance to the festival is free and takes place at Yantis Memorial Park at Second Avenue and Dehaven Street.