What is there to do at the fair?
The theme this year, "From the Mountain - to the River" says something true about the fair: It covers a lot of ground.
Yet the fairgrounds itself is a compact,
accessible facility, midway between mountain and river, the annual summer meeting place for Hood River neighbors as well as visitors to our scenic part of the world.
The fairgrounds are looking even better than last year, notably in the Frank Herman Arena, named a few years ago for longtime 4-H leader Frank Herman.
Frank died last week, but his spirit will certainly be present at the arena, which has a new riding surface and railings, courtesy of the fair board and Hood River Lions.
Fair offerings and events include both the new and the familiar in 2011.
The parking system will be the same as the one instituted last year: Instead of paying at the main entry booth, cars are allowed to park first and people pay at ticket booths set up at each point of entry.
One attraction of the fair this year will be the sheer variety of music, from country of varying stripes to old-time folk to Mexican dance to original rock and roll - most of it by folks from Hood River and the Gorge.
The essence of the fair is found in the animals, the handcrafts and art, the horticulture, and other creative expressions put forth by people of Hood River County.
For example, the floral entries give entrants a chance to express the physical wonders of the Gorge, as well as the activities and attractions that make this area special. Coming under the "Mountain - River" theme are floral arrangement categories ranging from "Hood River Orchards," "Lost Lake Reflections" and "Bridge of the Gods" to "Windsurfing," "Picnic at Panorama Point" and "Rock Climbing."
It will be interesting to see how people florally express "Lava Beds" and "Hiking the Trail," and other scenic and dynamic elements of our local scene.
That's just the start of what your own neighbors will have to show.
The 4-H building is always a trove of handcrafts, canned goods, art projects and other efforts by our local youths.
The Blue and Gold gyms at adjoining Wy'east Middle School become gallery and showroom for community as well as commercial endeavors: Many businesses as well as community programs are on view in the two gyms, and people from those groups are available to answer questions.
Then there are the art projects, photography, collections and many other manifestations of the hobbies, skills and activities that are important to the people of this community. These rooms are typically full of surprises: keen artistic ability displayed by a child, or an object made by a neighbor you might not have known was so talented.
Part of the appeal of the fair is that it contains so much we come to expect: the well-groomed livestock, the carefully-stitched quilt, the pleasing twang of the country guitar, the pulling aroma of teriyaki and tamales, the visual and aural blur of the carnival rides.
There are new events and activities - a show by the local band Sunderland and the "wool busting" contest to name just two - as well as new things to be found in the expected places: the 12-year-old who shows a genuine connection to the steer or lamb she is presenting in the ring for the first time; the humorous piece of ceramics; the elegantly prepared can of pickled beans; the 4-H poster with information about agriculture you had never known.
The fair is about reveling in the familiar and being refreshed by the new. Just as the Hood River tumbles and glides through rapids, meadows and pools from the mountain to the river, the fair provides a pleasing variety of moods and textures, for anyone willing to follow its flow.