For at least two decades, the unofficial kickoff to election season in even-numbered years has been the Labor Day picnic at Oaks Amusement Park hosted by the Northwest Oregon Labor Council.
The event regularly attracts more than 10,000 attendees, many of them wearing T-shirts identifying their union affiliation. The concentration of labor might—not to mention beers, burgers and brats—has long made the event a must for Democratic candidates seeking face time with the base and an opportunity to take the stage.
But Oaks Park has taken a beating during COVID, losing well over $1 million in 2020, according to its tax return. And after canceling two years in a row, the Labor Day event will not be back.
“It’s really a shame because everybody looks forward to the picnic,” says Joe Baessler, political director for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in Oregon.
Oaks Park CEO Brandon Roben says the change is not about money. The amusement park is operating at reduced capacity and simply cannot accommodate the crowds the council picnic would bring.
“We just don’t have the resources,” Roben says.