The theme of this year’s Hood River County Fair is “Carnival Lights and Country Nights,” which nicely summarizes two of the main reasons people flock to the event in Odell.

It may seem hard to believe that it is just about fair time again — July 27-30, to be exact, though a number of key parts of the fair happen Monday and Tuesday, before gates open (more on that below).

The fair is a community event of the best kind, and it deserves wide attendance. You might think you have seen it before, and surely the familiar and reliable elements are part of the fun, but each year there is something different. For example, this year expect to see more horse-related events, a reflection of varied equestrian groups in the community, and the increased use of the Frank Herman Arena for four-hooved events throughout the year.

At the fair, there is much to see that is created, grown, or organized by local residents. The fair remains, beyond the illumination and amplification of the carnival and headline concerts, a gathering of locals.

You want bright lights and colors? Go to the livestock auction and see the way those purple Grand Champion ribbons stand out against the well-groomed sheen of a champion steer. Or stop by the Summit Building near sunset and see the shimmering fabrics of 4-H’ers clothing displays, or the Community Building and see the vibrant and imaginative quilts and textile creations, the golden jars of honey or pears, bright red cherries, or marbled green and orange pickles. A great country night is to take the time to admire the artwork, photos, woodwork, and collections in the Wy’east Middle School gym, and gentle and humorous floral arrangement entries in the Horticulture building. It’s worth it just to see how the entrants will interpret themes such as “Midway Treats,” “The House of Mirrors,” “Tunnel of Love” and “Pick a Peck of Pickled Peppers.”

In many ways, people bring their talents and ideas to the fair, giving the four-day event a richness that goes beyond the midway or main stage. The carnival and concerts are certainly hallmarks, a big part of the fun, but plan to take a little more time at the fair to admire your neighbors’ handiwork, for the flowers, 4-H and FFA animals, art, textiles, educational displays, quilts, baked goods, preserved foods, and fresh fruits and vegetables are the collective heart and soul of the fair.

Want to enter something? The time to do so is Monday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. or Tuesday 8-10:30 a.m. for Open Class baked goods, fruits and vegetables, clothing, textiles, food preservation, and youth baked goods in the Community Building, and commercial exhibits, art, hobbies and handicrafts, photography and ceramics in the Blue Gym, and Wednesday 9-11 a.m. for flower registration, in the Horticulture Building. For details, check the Fair Book (available at the fairgrounds and businesses throughout the county).

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