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Alumni in the News: Portland diorama contest highlights bizarre Oregon history
Author: Jamie Hale, The Oregonian
Posted: February 16, 2014

Doug Kenck-Crispin graduated with BA in History from Portland State's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 2009.

Read the original article in the Oregonian here

While working on his history thesis at Portland State University, Doug Kenck-Crispin had a nagging concern about the work professors were assigning him: Why didn't he get to make any dioramas?

Kenck-Crispin, now the resident historian of Kick Ass Oregon History, decided to take matters into his own hands by organizing the Kick Ass Oregon History Diorama Contest. Now in its third year, the contest draws somewhere around a dozen entries, depicting scenes both familiar and bizarre from our state's strange and storied history.

 

"It's so cool to see people spend so much time exploring these stories in Oregon's past," Kenck-Crispin said. "The devotion they put into it the detail, it's pretty phenomenal." He's already posted photos of some of this year's entries, which depict airline hijacker D.B. Cooper, the 1959 Roseburg blast and the infamous Japanese balloon bomb explosion of 1945 – a particularly popular topic, he said.

The balloon bomb diorama depicts pregnant Sunday school teacher Elsie Mitchell and the five children she and her husband, Archie, took on a picnic to the Fremont National Forest. While Archie parked the car, Elsie and the children gathered around a mysterious object they found in the woods. The object turned out to be a bomb attached to a balloon, sent along the jet stream from Japan. The bomb exploded, killing Elsie, her unborn baby and all five children – the only mainland U.S. casualties of World War II.

It's bizarre, largely forgotten stories like the balloon bombing that get the most attention from diorama builders. The better they tell the story, and the nicer their diorama looks, they better they'll score in the competition. Judging the work is a panel of celebrity judges, from local journalists to Blazers announcer Mike Barrett. "I give them a spreadsheet and they go through and judge mercilessly," Kenck-Crispin said.

Contestants have until tomorrow, Feb. 14 (Oregon's birthday), to send photos of completed dioramas to oregonhistorian@gmail.com. All entrants will be posted on the Kick Ass Oregon History Facebook page, and the winner will be announced at their Feb. 18 event at the Jack London Bar. Contestants get an extra five points just for bringing their dioramas to the event, which could very well decide the winner.

Kenck-Crispin said the popularity of the event initially came as a shock. But thinking about it, he said the competition fits right in with the culture of the city. "I think there's a population in Portland specifically that really enjoys doing crafty things and looking at history, and doing geeky stuff, and if it revolves around a bar even better."

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KICK ASS OREGON HISTORY DIORAMA CONTEST

When: Tuesday, Feb. 18, at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Jack London Bar, in the basement of the Rialto Poolroom (529 S.W. 4th Ave.)

Tickets: Free