Hood River County Fair achieved an odd sort of balance last week
The smallest Thursday attendance in memory was followed by a record turnout on Friday, according to Fair Manager Clara Rice.
“Actually, it went well, despite some changes,” Rice said.
This year, the fair crew added fencing and increased ticket booths, from five to six locations, as ways to direct people from parking into the paid admission areas.
The change drew mixed reviews, with most people liking “the way it made it look organized,” Rice said, while others, particularly some senior citizens, said “they did not like walking to the different gates.
“We may change this, or say it’s something to get used to,” Rice said.
She said attendance was between 800 and 1,000 on Thursday — about half the number on the equivalent day in recent years.
Then, Friday, almost 6,000 people attended.
(Lions Club was stretched thin, meanwhile, on parking crew volunteers.)
Rice said she believes the Thursday impact was partly due to Hispanic residents’ staying away from fairgrounds after rumors — unfounded — emerged that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents were at the Odell fair site. That never happened, but the fear was present, though Rice credited many local Spanish-speaking residents with doing their best to correct the rumors.
Sheriff Matt English emphasized that ICE agents were never at the fairgrounds, and said that to his knowledge, ICE had not been present in the county at all. Any actions ICE did take locally would have been to arrest specific individuals, never general searches for people, English said.
Calls to the newspaper, and social media reports, indicating the belief that ICE was present in the county Tuesday and Wednesday of last week could not be confirmed.