Dairy Women Bringing ‘Taste of the Fair’ to Canby

While the Clackamas County Fair, sadly, is canceled, at least one traditional offering will be back on the menu later this summer.

Thanks to a partnership with Wilco, the nonprofit, volunteer-run Oregon Dairy Women will be taking their world-famous Red Barn ice cream on the road to communities across six different weekends this summer — and they’ll be here in Canby Aug. 21-23.

That weekend, which is when the 2020 fair would have been held, the Oregon Dairy Women ice cream stand will be open at the Canby Wilco store, serving up cones (in vanilla, chocolate and the beloved swirl) and shakes (Oreo, marionberry, strawberry, chocolate and vanilla) from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Oregon Dairy Women President Becky Heimerl tells the Canby Now Podcast that the nonprofit’s events throughout the summer — including the stand at the Clackamas County Fair — are organized by local chapters, with the exception of the state fair.

The state fair stand, which takes place at the original Red Barn on the fairgrounds in Salem, provides most of the funding for the college scholarships the organization awards each year and the Oregon Dairy Women’s Dairy Princess Ambassador Program.

“We’ve been fortunate, because last year, we had a tremendous state fair,” Heimerl said. “That’s helped us balance a little bit of our budget for the unexpected season we’ve had this year, but we’re definitely going to feel it.”

Though the coronavirus-related downturn and loss of large events has forced the nonprofit to lay off its only employee, recouping revenue was not necessarily the inspiration behind this summer’s ice cream tour.

Heimerl says the Oregon Dairy Women just wanted to bring their local communities a little something to look forward to this summer. Well, initially, it was just one community, but the partnership with Wilco changed that.

“It was just going to be a fun day, an in-and-out thing,” she said with a laugh. “It turned into much more than we were originally anticipating, but a huge opportunity that we’re super-excited and grateful for. And we’re so thankful to Wilco for partnering with us to make it possible.”

The first pop-up stand was this weekend at the Wilco in Salem, where the Red Barn has been serving Oregon Dairy Women ice cream every summer since 1959 — until now.

Heimerl wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. But after selling almost 5,000 shakes and cones over the course of three days, she said she was blown away.

“I was super surprised,” she admitted. “I mean, I knew we were a popular stop, but just the number of people who said, ‘This is the reason I go to the state fair,’ or ‘I’m so glad there’s something that’s right this summer.’ I just didn’t realize what a cornerstone piece of the experience it was for people.”

While the long lines and the myriad of other things to do at the state fair can lead to a grumpy interaction or two each year, Heimerl said that this was different. The positivity was flowing along with the soft-serve all weekend.

A number of offices sent employees over for lunch, leading to a single order of 17 milkshakes — something Heimerl had never experienced. Another first was the customer who paid for the order of the person behind him, which they then paid forward, and on it went.

That chain continued, unbroken, a total of 13 times.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said. “Everybody was so happy and thankful and appreciative. I guess I just take it for granted. I’ve been involved in it for a long time.”

With a chuckle, she added, “And we’re dairy farmers, so we eat a lot of ice cream anyway, you know. But I think it was a nice treat for them.”

The Oregon Dairy Women’s unique rich and creamy mix is produced by the Oregon-based Umpqua Dairy using local ingredients and featuring several flavors unique to Oregon. Their shakes are hand-mixed and served in rather generous portions that might look out of place anywhere but the state or county fair.

The safety of customers and volunteers is a top priority, Oregon Dairy Women says, and all recommended CDC sanitation protocols will be implemented at the pop-up stands, including face coverings for all volunteers and the six-foot social distancing guidelines.

In addition to the Canby visit, the Oregon Dairy Women will be in Lebanon July 17-19, Corvallis July 31-Aug. 2, Newberg Aug. 7-9 and back in Salem the last weekend in August.

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