June 17, 2001 11:00 pm

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

ELGIN Phyllis Hopkins had to pause a moment.

Im 80 I have to stop and think 88, the long-time Summerville resident said.

Stopping to think wasnt an issue, though, when Hopkins took center stage Saturday afternoon in the role of a great-great-great-grandmother telling stories about July 3, 1778, in Pennsylvania.

Hopkins monologue, A Bit of History, was just one of a lineup of music, comedy and performances given in downtown Elgin to Riverfest visitors.

Families, young people, dogs, town residents and distant visitors all stopped to listen and enjoy the sunshine.

It is a great day, agreed Robert Warmath, manning a stand where free ice water, balloons and information about the Elgin Baptist Church were available. Warmath, the churchs pastor, was on hand to help tie balloon strings to little wrists and offer cheery encouragement.

Maureen Smolkowski was still plenty cheerful even hours after the finish of the Riverfest 5K fun run and walk.

I won, I won, Smolkowski beamed, and then added honestly that she won her division, the Little Old Woman Division in which she had been the only entrant.

Just as soon as they could see us at the finish line, we jogged, Smolkowski said with a smile.

Not too bad for someone who had stomach surgery in April and knee surgery last year.

Fourteen entrants, from high schoolers on up, competed in the 5K, said Jared Rogers, and everybody finished a winner with at least a door prize.

Rogers son, Brian, home from medical school in Milwaukee, Wis., had planned to run in the first Riverfest half-marathon. But when no other long-distance runners were at the starting line, he decided to run the 5K.

Brian Rogers finished first, his father said, right in front of his former Elgin High School running coach, Larry Kurtz.

Everybody had a ball, Jared Rogers said, with plenty of winners in all sorts of classes determined at the finish line.

One sprained ankle marred the fun run.

A few of the runners even managed to eat breakfast at the fire hall before hitting the streets.

Estimates Saturday afternoon were that almost 200 people ate, giving a boost to the fire departments Christmas fund.

Back at the park, Annette Howell was pleased with the second Riverfest plant sale, sponsored by the Dirt Diggers Garden Club of Elgin and Imbler.

The clubs 20 to 25 members had dug up extra and unwanted plants, and were selling them Saturday for as little as a quarter at their booth.

By 11 a.m., nearly three-quarters of the plants and bulbs had been sold. Thats good news for the club, which is planning to leave Tuesday for a three-day trip to Oregon Gardens in Silverton and also hopes to buy five or seven more trees to add to the others already planted along 10th Street.

Howell hopes that the successful plant sale encourages more gardeners to join the three-year-old club, which meets monthly in Elgin. She urged gardeners and would-be gardeners to contact her about the club at the Elgin Library.

Across the street from the park, art was the topic of an intense contest. From works of wood art, to photography and painting, visitors to the art show were handed ballots to judge the Peoples Choice awards winners to be announced later.

With hours of music still ahead, it seemed just right to find a shady spot and settle down for a while longer.