County Fair starts today

In large bands and small animals, and plenty in between, look for numerous changes at this year’s Hood River County Fair, which runs July 25-28 in Odell.

“It’s exciting,” said Liesl Peterson, small animals superintendent. “Our numbers are way up.”

Visitors will see many more turkeys, ducks and chickens this year, and Peterson said livestock in general has seen an increase in entries.

She attributes the small animal resurgence to “the movement to local, growing your own food, so a lot of people have backyard chicken coops, and a lot of kids are going into market (animals) who can’t go into livestock.” She explained, “You can do the project in your backyard; it’s much easier. We are just seeing a lot more kids with small animals.”

Peterson said there is a decided rise in turkey and duck entries this year — including 17 turkeys, up from three in 2011.

In a major change in the musical lineups this year, the Spanish-language band will be on the main stage, not the smaller park stage. La Banda Rebelde del Pacifico will start up at 9 p.m. Friday, which should leave enough time for the 4-H/FFA livestock auction to wrap up and not have to compete aurally with the music.

“Things are going well,” Fair Manager Clara Rice said. “And the weather forecast is 80s and a light breeze — let’s hope it stays that way.”

Teresa Seal, groundskeeping crew chief, said Monday her workers have been busy and are eager for fair to start.

“It’ll be nice to get it going, get all the ‘pre’ stuff taken care of. There sure is a lot happening here,” Seal said as she prepared taco salad fixings along with Laurie Coreson and Tammy Layton, in the Community Building, in preparation for Monday’s volunteer lunch and dinner. “We do a lot of things here; all the grounds, and the flowers — whatever we’re needed to do.”

Over in the fair office, office administrator Kathy Green and Rice are handling questions and requests from superintendents, exhibitors and volunteers.

“The questions all come in here,” Green said Monday. “Ride bracelets, passes, parent passes, all of this; a lot of ride bracelets get sold today, and people are coming up over needing to make copies. They’re setting up in the buildings, most of their supplies I’ve gotten to them, but there may still be that one thing they need.

“Also, they’re checking in to get their numbers that are assigned for their exhibits,” Green said.

“The phone has not stopped — ” At that point Green looks over at her desk. “I can’t believe it’s not ringing!”

Other repeat questions: “How much does it cost to get in?” and “How much extra to see Aaron Tiffin?”

(That’s Saturday’s headliner, and the answer is no extra. The gate price includes access to all events, including the main stage show — but fans are encouraged to get to the middle school field early to claim a good seat. By the middle of the headliner’s first set, the combination of stage lights and the alpenglow on Mount Adams and Mount Hood provide a concert setting like no other.)

“We do get a lot of people from other places to come in and watch the headliner,” Green said.

With all the activity on the pre-fair days, Green was asked, “What’s fun?”

She immediately replied, “Seeing all the people again.”

“The hassle is the most fun,” interjects Rice, who enters answering one call on the walkie-talkie and heads to her desk to answer another.

Rice reports that this year, “by POPular demand,” the Exotic Animals exhibit is back after one year’s absence.

Rice said, “People were upset last year: They saw the reptile show (also back this year) and wanted to see the rest of the animals.”

A new event is Thursday’s team penning, scheduled at 6 p.m.

“We’ve been working on the arena for two years to bring it up to standard,” including new railings, she said.

Team penning is a sport derived from ranch work, in which teams of three riders have 60 or 90 seconds to separate three designated head from a herd of 30 cattle, and herd them into a pen.

To get the crowd into the mood, before the team penning, kiddie stick pony races are planned, and there will be cowboy poetry by Duane Nelson.

Fairgoers will first meet two new groups of adults who will handle ticket-selling duties this year, as a fundraiser for their groups. For the first time, the music departments of Wy’east and Hood River middle schools will sell tickets. On Wednesday and Friday, Wy’east will be there, and Hood River on Thursday and Saturday.

“It’s a great way to make money to buy instruments and other things for their programs,” Rice said. “They’re both really excited about it, and so are we.

“It’s new in that we’re having a particular department do it,” she said, rather than PTO groups representing an entire school.

Another musical draw this year will be “The Ultimate Elvis,” Justin Shandor, with two Thursday shows in the park, 6 p.m. with ’50s and ’60s Elvis and 8 p.m. for ’70s Elvis. The first show is the shorter of the two, at about 35-40 minutes. Rice promises “a surprise” as part of the second show. “I know what it is and Kathy knows, and that is all,” Rice said.

FAIR NOTES, OPTIONAL

A facility change many will notice this year is the removal of the entry booth that stood at the southeast gate, off Wy’east Road next to the park stage.

“It was taken down about four months ago because it was a hazard for people driving in and out, with an RV or big truck you had to jockey around it, and we didn’t use it,” Rice said.

Ticket sellers stand next to the lane of traffic as cars come in via two separate lanes, and they’ll need to be able to look into each car in order to figure the entire admission price. That was not practical by standing inside the booth.

Speaking of tickets,

“4-H had an opening on Thursday, the time when it was least used, so we decided to do open team penning, see if we can get more people from the community in,” Rice said.

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