Art Helkey donated this tractor to Philomath Frolic & Rodeo, an organization that his daughter, Heather Helkey, volunteered with as the Kids Korner organizer. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

A Montana girl whose best friend for a stretch of time during childhood was a pot-bellied pig, my wife couldn’t help but wander over to a little petting zoo that was part of a children’s attraction at the Philomath Frolic & Rodeo.

This was a year or two before our first kid was born and it was obviously an attraction set up for children, but she got right in there and started petting away. I recall the woman in charge being very nice and chatting with my wife for a good period of time before we moved on.

Heather Helkey organized the Frolic and Rodeo’s Kids Korner for years. Sadly, her life was cut short by cancer this past September just one day shy of her 48th birthday.

“It came on very sudden and took her and after a couple of months, we talked about it as a board and wanted to do something,” board member Chris Workman said.

As a result, the attraction for children is now known as “Heather’s Kids Korner.”

“Kids Korner is one of those things that’s kinda grown over time and she was always there getting stuff for people to color, working with the 4-H groups, she was just consistently there, loved doing it and it was something that I never had to worry much about because I knew Heather was taking care of it,” Workman said.

Darrell Hinchberger, Frolic & Rodeo board president, knows the family well.

“Heather did a lot for the kids,” said Hinchberger, adding that she was a third-grade teacher at a rural school in the area. “Everything she did for us for the Frolic was always for the kids.”

Hinchberger said she most enjoyed children in the 2- to 10-year-old range and wanted to give them a good time at the community celebration. Even when there wasn’t one.

“When we were down to the COVID year, when we didn’t have it, she did a coloring contest,” Hinchberger said. “Just very simplistic and it just went way over with the kids.”

For those planning to watch the parade Saturday, keep an eye out for a certain tractor that will be making its way through the route. Heather’s dad, Art Helkey, donated it to the Frolic.

“After his daughter passed away, he didn’t have any use for it — that was kinda her tractor — so he donated it to us to be used,” Hinchberger said. “We’re going to have it in the parade this year.”

(Brad Fuqua is publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at

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Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.