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New and traditional events get warm welcome at fair

August 3, 2011

Friendly people and fair weather amounted to a predictable equation for the 2011 Hood River County Fair.

"It all worked out absolutely great," said Fair Manager Clara Rice.

She said there were "great crowds every night."

Odell resident Becky Bugge left little out when she talked about what she enjoys at the fair.

"I like everything about the fair!" said Bugge, directing cars along with her husband and fellow Lion, Chuck.

"I like the displays, the exhibits, the flowers, the quilts, the rides - I love the rides - I like the horses and 4-H, the 4-H kids are awesome, and the thing I like best is the parking!

"Because everyone who comes here is happy. They all have a smile on their face and they're happy," Bugge said.

"Lots of people out here, lots of social people," said Erik Nelson of Hood River, 21, who was at the fair representing the State Department of Forestry, including escorting Smokey Bear around the grounds.

Rice noted that, "It got hot during the day but in the evening the temperatures dropped and everyone came out and enjoyed themselves."

"It was amazing, they seemed to be having a great time.

"In terms of numbers we were right with last year, or better, mainly because we had more season passes than last year," Rice said.

She said turnout equaled or topped last year's record gate of $100,000.

Vicente Calderon, an eighth-grader at Wy'east Middle School, said he enjoyed seeing all the baby animals.

"There were some baby animals that were just adorable," said Vicente, who took home blue ribbons in cavies and rabbit judging.

"I learned a lot of things, so many I can't even say," he said. "I saw a lot of friends I haven't seen in such a long time. I taught them how to handle rabbits, cavies and chickens, how to hold them in a way that's safe."

Rice said the Saturday main stage concert turnout was larger than last year.

"Jo Dee Messina put on a wonderful show," she said.

And Messina and her 11-member entourage left with some local delectables: a large box of cherries from a local orchard, a donation arranged by Jerry Petricko of Odell.

Ironically, the delayed cherry harvest may have kept some folks away from the fair longer than most years.

"I know a lot of people had difficulty getting out here because of the cherry crop getting out here so late, working right up to evening, so Saturday was a big turnout for them," Rice said.

Besides the band's cherries, the fair was full of other sweet things, though some only the judges could eat: adult and youth baked good entries were up considerably, Rice said. (See page A9 for a photo sample of one fair pie entry.)

Digital photography has helped lead to "many more" open class photographic entries, Rice added.

"Overall, we had about the same number of entries as last year.

One popular event was a new one: Mutton Busting, in a special corral.

"It was absolutely fantastic," Rice said of the event at the fair in which helmeted children 55 pounds and lighter could take a ride on a ewe, assisted by adults or solo.

"Kids loved it, parents loved it," Rice said.

But the kids literally needed to "get the hang of it."

Rice said, "You put the little kids on, and say 'hold on, hold on' and when they get to the end, 'let go, let go,' didn't know whether to hang or let go."

Case in point was the first rider to go.

Sierra Muenzer, 3, of Hood River, rode solo, lasted three seconds on the back of the sheep, and came up with a minor rope burn from holding on too long, and a face full of tears.

The tears did not last long, thanks to comforting from Mutton Busting organizer Frank Rendon, and Sierra's mom, Sarah, and bestowal of a ribbon and a t-shirt (photo on page A1).

And the rope burns must not have been too bad because later that day Sierra rode again.

The belt buckle winners in Saturday's mutton busting championship were Cora Anderson and Avan Garcia.

Rice summed up the fair this way: "It was a very successful fair. When you don't have any problems, you have a great fair," she said.

She said that "the sheriff's deputy (Gerry Tiffany) joked when he came into pick up the money (Saturday night) that they were so disappointed, they had just had their first fight. It was the only trouble for whole fair. He thinks they were just leaving, too."

Must be they did not meet Becky Bugge.

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