“I came here to play a little chess and participate in the community,” said New Columbia resident Robert Ingram, 66, as he stood in the drizzle after guiding Akariey Arrell, 4, through his first game of chess. Chessboards were set up at picnic tables to encourage neighbors and outsiders to connect to each other over friendly games.


The live music, clown, face painting and free food were all designed to entertain and connect, as well. Deborah Sampson, a head volunteer for PROPER, or People Reaching Oppressed People Expecting Results, said the rain and date of the festival, which coincided with a holiday weekend, affected the attendance.


PROPER is a program of the Portland-based Celebration Tabernacle nondenominational church. It uses events such as festivals and holiday dinners to get neighbors, businesses and churches to come out and meet one another in hopes of starting dialogue about Portland communities.

The Portland Development Commission and Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland Metropolitan Area also sponsored the event.


“Here, you have different types of people with different types of situations,” Sampson said. One of the Housing Authority of Portland’s newest projects, New Columbia is an 852-unit mixed-housing site, featuring public housing, affordable rental housing and homes for sale. It sits on land that used to be Columbia Villa, a housing project that was built in 1942 and deemed substandard by the housing authority.


“The whole atmosphere is great with all the activities,” said New Columbia resident Thad Logan, who came with his wife and six children to the festival.”


Like many summer events, the festival at McCoy Park was made for kids. Volunteers for New Columbia painted hearts and other doodles on faces, and PROPER volunteers handed out generous slices of watermelon for kids to sink their teeth into.


“It is fun just to hang out,” said Enrique Perdomo, who came with his brother and friend and said he had met a lot of new people while at the park. For PROPER, meeting new people is the goal. “It’s all about community,” Sampson said.