Hood River County Fair will be familiar yet new.
Fair Manager Clara Rice and staff, the fair board, and all the many volunteers deserve credit for all they do to make this event happen.
The best way to give them credit is to attend this multi-faceted celebration of community. It will look much like it did last year, but there are changes, as well.
The fair is fully handicapped-accessible now, with the ramp leading to the fair office; the concrete was poured last week.
Added effort is being made this year to make sure everyone who needs help getting around can do so: Veteran volunteer Jerry Petricko and others will be at the wheel of a five-passenger cart that will continually shuttle from the memorial shelter near the fair gate, westward to the animal barns and back.
This year’s theme, “Country Scenes and Children’s Dreams,” well sums up the fair not just this year but always: it has something for everyone. The exhibits of youth and their animals, art work, and other endeavors are a key part of the fair, but it is also true that the passions and efforts of adults are also proudly displayed.
This year the 4-H Horse Show has been rescheduled for August, giving the fair the chance to use the upgraded Frank Herman Arena for other equine pursuits, many of them open to folks who like to ride. Look for cattle dog sorting, dummy roping, cattle cutting and barrel racing in the arena on Thursday and Friday, and penning and ranching on Saturday.
In addition, kids’ buckle roping is planned, and at the nearby Mutton Busters arena there will be many other opportunities for kids to have fun. Add magician Godfrey, tractor pull, exhibit animals, OMSI displays, and you have a long list of free activities for children.
Notable this year is the earlier start of Friday’s 4-H/FFA Livestock Auction: anyone may come and bid on market swine, sheep, ducks and other animals that youth in the county have worked long and hard to care for. Supporting the auction goes a long way to rewarding these youngsters for their work, and enabling them to carry it forward for another year.
Speaking of hard work, stroll over to the Wy’east grandstand and take a close look at the youth-painted anti-drug and alcohol murals on the east and west faces. They are impressive works. (See photo on page A1, and details on page A5.)
To the fair board’s credit, a real effort shows this year to enhance accessibility for anyone, and to expand the fun and games for the kids. Naturally, the midway rides, which require tickets, will provide long hours of entertainment, but it is gratifying that the fair is intentionally expanding the free menu of options for families.
The fair is already a low-cost opportunity for entertainment and even enlightenment. There is much fun to be had, and much to learn, be it at OMSI, or from an impromptu conversation with a FFA steer owner, from the hobby collections to the 4-H research projects that are there in the school gym and Summit Building, respectively, for anyone to see.
Every corner of the fair, be it the merry-go-round or market goats, is deserving of attention. Dedicate a few hours at least once this week and go check out what your friends and neighbors are up to, because that is what this traditional and grassroots fair is all about.