Philomath Frolic & Rodeo volunteer Marilyn Schmidt is going out on top.

For the past couple of decades, Schmidt has been running the Frolic's annual holiday craft fair. In her final go-round as the craft fair committee chairperson, the event brought in a record $7,000. And every dollar went back into the community through various donations.

It's pretty much a given that folks will continue to see Schmidt around the rodeo each summer. A lifelong member of the Frolic & Rodeo, she says she'll step in for whatever might be needed.

"I've enjoyed it, but I'm just at the point where, OK, maybe there's something else I'd like to do," the 70-year-old Schmidt said with a smile. "I'm not going to give it up entirely, but I'll back off."

Schmidt has worn many hats, organizing the grand parade for several years and beginning in the 1990s as the chairperson for the finance committee.

"That's a fun one, except I don't get to see the rodeo because you're in the ticket office the whole weekend," Schmidt laughed in reference to the finance committee. "But I get to play with the money."

There was plenty of money to play with following the most recent holiday craft fair. The $7,000 was not only an all-time high, but represented roughly twice as much as what the event was bringing in four, five and six years ago. And it featured 115 vendors offering their wares on 123 tables that took over Philomath Elementary for a weekend in early November.

As indicated, the money goes entirely to local organizations. Schmidt said she read an article in the newspaper about the Philomath Performing Arts Benefit Fund, which was organized through the Philomath Community Foundation, and wanted $2,500 to go toward that group's fundraising efforts. It represented the largest gift to any one entity for the 2016-17 cycle.

As one might guess, it has come up in the past about craft fair proceeds staying in part within the Frolic.

"The treasurer said, 'no, hands off. If you take the money, Marilyn will quit. Don't touch that money' and they've always been real good about it," Schmidt said. "You know, hopefully the rodeo will start making some money so we can give more. It's just one good way to donate back."

Over the past five years, the Frolic & Rodeo has donated $33,951, but a percentage of that number came out of other profits beyond the craft fair, primarily in 2012-13 when $5,001 went to the shelter project at Philomath City Park.

Schmidt has been in charge of the craft fair for roughly the past 20 years.

"I started helping my niece in '95 and then I took over," she said. "We think it was before I retired, we think about '98, '99, 2000, we're not sure because I left her name on for several years and then she said, 'get my name off of there' because she was just too busy."

Schmidt said the rodeo has obviously been the Frolic's big event in terms of money coming in.

"This craft fair has gone for years and years. I remember it back in the 1970s," Schmidt said. "But they never made very much. It was just something we did."

Once at the helm, Schmidt vowed to make the craft fair larger with an improved bottom line.

"I said, 'when we make money, we're going to give it all back out.' I said, 'it goes out, no matter what we make, it goes out," she said. "So my goal was to keep expenses down, so that we could make enough to give back out. And it wasn't too many years and we started making a little bit, and then a little more and a little more."

Schmidt's earliest association with the event goes clear back to when a couple of the Frolic's founding members were still running it, including Inez Marstall and Hazel Lamberty.

"They were the ones running the craft fair. I can remember going and helping them. When my niece took over (in 1995), then I really got into it," she said. "But I would go in and help them. It's been there forever."

The Frolic was established in 1953 when community members brainstormed on starting a celebration that featured a parade. Clarence and Inez Marstall, Walter and Ida Pflughaupt, and Melvin and Esther Castle, came up with what was originally called the Philomath Buckaroo and Loggers’ Frolic.

Schmidt said in the beginning of her involvement, she would go to other craft fairs. Contacts were developed and the Philomath event took off through word of mouth.

"At least 50 percent of my vendors come back," she said. "When they go to other shows ... they tell people, they'll tell the vendors."

A glance at the most recent craft fair surveys that are filled out by vendors reveals an appreciation for the help they receive on set-up and tear-down.

"One thing we do that other craft fairs don't do, is we have elves," Schmidt said. "The vendors like our elves. It's hard to load and unload there at the elementary school, so we have helpers."

Frolic members, including the younger junior members, that help with unloading Friday night and Saturday morning, and then loading Sunday afternoon, have become known as elves.

"One lady, she has complimented me each year how 'those elves are wonderful ... you're going to have them again, aren't you?'" Schmidt said.

Schmidt's brother-in-law, Ken Stueve, first got involved with the Frolic in the early 1980s, just before the first rodeo. Once that happened, several members of the family followed, including Marilyn, her brother, James, and sisters, Carol and Diane.

"It was a family project there going for years and years," Schmidt said. "But we're all kinda getting to that point where we're ready to let the rest of them do it."

Schmidt is a lifelong Philomath-area resident (except for three months in Stayton), the first 12 years of childhood in Hoskins and then to Wren.

The Frolic's organizers drew up plans for the first rodeo in 1983 and the community responded by helping with the construction of the rodeo grounds on land leased to them by the Skirvin family. Within six weeks, a rodeo arena had been built from the ground up.

"Everything down there we had to build," Schmidt said. "We had potlucks at noon and so we could eat and then go back out and work some more."

Schmidt spent a lot of Saturdays working at the Frolic rodeo grounds and then added in some other days to get things done after she retired from Oregon State University in 1999. Over the years, she's also been involved with several other organizations and causes, including a partnership with the Red Cross to organize blood drives.

Just last month, she was recognized for her contributions at the Philomath Area Chamber of Commerce's Samaritan Awards with the Senior First Citizen honor.


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