Artist Jen Hernandez and former principal Bryan Traylor cut a ribbon during a special event on Sept. 13 during the elementary school’s open house. (Photo provided by Eric Beasley)

A colorful collection of vegetables and fruits bordered by a display of student handprints has brightened Philomath Elementary School’s courtyard.

The artistic addition to the enclosed space was celebrated Sept. 13 with a special ribbon-cutting that coincided with the school’s open house.

“Philly the Falcon” made an appearance at the Sept. 13 event. (Photo provided by Eric Beasley)

Artist Jen Hernandez partnered with Maxtivity Arts and Crafts Creative Space for the mural project, which was part of a spring residency program at the elementary school. The mural complements the new garden that was planted in the courtyard, which occurred through Oregon State University Extension’s Food Hero program.

The mural includes a list of contributors and specifies, “Our garden mural celebrates delicious healthy foods. Painted by the students of Philomath Elementary School 2022-23.”

Hernandez and retired principal Bryan Traylor cut the ribbon.

PES Principal Eric Beasley thanked Maxtivity for its support of art and Food Hero through the OSU Extension Service for providing hands-on learning with the working garden.

The ribbon-cutting event featured free garden materials, popcorn and music. School mascot “Philly the Falcon” even made a special appearance to add to the fun.

The courtyard also saw the addition of an outdoor classroom area thanks to an Eagle Scout project by Philomath High student Tanner Dowless.

Hernandez, who is based in Corvallis, wrote in detail about the mural process with PES in a blog on her website.

“The goal of the project was to engage the students of the school in thinking about healthy food choices, learn about the mural painting process and to create lasting memories for the school,” Hernandez wrote.

Maxtivity went into the school to talk with students and collect ideas about what they would want to see represented in the mural.

“Students created a list of colorful foods, plants and insects, plus the school mascot (a blue falcon) and some key school symbols like golden tennis shoes,” Hernandez wrote.

In addition to Maxtivity and OSU Extension’s Food Hero program, other contributors included Philomath Elementary Parent-Teacher Organization, Philomath Open Studios, Republic Services Charitable Foundation and Philomath Community Foundation.

A wet playground this weekend at Clemens Primary School. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

2. Covered play area at Clemens

Plans for the addition of a covered play area at Clemens Primary School have been on the table for several years and the project hit a wall in recent months. The original concept in the request for proposals process came in significantly over budget. So it went out to bid a second time and again came in too high.

The School Board briefly discussed the project earlier this year with member Joe Dealy calling it a facility addition that needs to happen.

“Our plan is to get it back out for bid in October to have construction start as soon as the school year’s out,” Clemens Primary Principal Abby Couture told the School Board last week. “We have the extra funds committed to it.”

First-grade teacher Melissa Mularsky, accompanied by Clemens Primary counselor Mallory Crane, approached the board at the Sept. 21 meeting to try to see if a temporary solution could be a possibility.

Mularsky said the K-1 kids need to be outside running and playing. During recess time, the students do not even have the library or gymnasium available inside with other activities going on. So students are stuck in their classrooms doing puzzles.

Said Mularsky, “By Day 3 of ‘rainy day recess’ we’re all kind of losing our minds.”

So, could there be a short-term fix until the permanent structure becomes a reality?

“My suggestion is let’s rent a tent, maybe from Special Occasions or someone else, put it out on the blacktop so that these kids can get outside, breathe fresh air,” Mularsky said.

Mularsky said the Corvallis School District did the same thing during the pandemic and times of construction. A few ideas were tossed around at the meeting and in the end, School Board Chair Rick Wells gave Mularsky the green light to do the leg work on feasibility and cost and bring those details to the school district to see if it can be done.

The Philomath Frolic and Rodeo earned the NPRA’s award for Best Independent Rodeo in the $1,000 and over added category and Scott Allen was named Announcer of the Year. (File photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

3. Frolic and Rodeo earns award

The Northwest Professional Rodeo Association recently announced its 2023 year-end awards and Philomath Frolic and Rodeo was among those receiving recognition.

The Frolic was named Best Independent Rodeo in the $1,000 and over added category for this year’s three-evening performance, which ran July 6-8. In addition, announcer Scott Allen, who has worked the Philomath rodeo for several years, was named Announcer of the Year.

Philomath has earned a reputation as one of the top rodeos in Oregon since its inception in 1983. That year, Carl, Walt and Paul Skirvin offered the use of Skirvin Farms property off South 13th Street to be used as rodeo grounds. A rodeo arena was put up in a matter of weeks and it’s seen several upgrades over the years.

The Philomath Frolic and Rodeo has been honored by the NPRA as a top rodeo on the circuit several other times through the decades

Other 2023 award winners included the Newport Rodeo (Best Fair Rodeo — $500 and under added), Columbia County Fair and Rodeo at St. Helens (Best Fair Rodeo — $600-$900 added), High Desert Stampede at Redmond (Best Fair Rodeo — $1,000 and over added), Clallam County Fair and Rodeo at Port Angeles, Washington (Best New Rodeo), Grays Harbor Mounted Posse Rodeo at Elma, Washington (Best Independent Rodeo — $500 and under added), Tillamook County Rodeo (Best Independent Rodeo — $600-$900 added), Oregon Trail Pro Rodeo at Heppner (Best Barrel Ground), JJ Harrison (Contract Act of the Year) and Gold Buckle Rodeo Co. (Stock Contractor of the Year).

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

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.