Detour: Day at the County Fair


Summer in Oregon brings heat, sweet corn, home grown tomatoes and juicy watermelon. It’s also the season for county fairs.


Summers in Southeast Alaska revolve around salmon fishing and tourism, so I haven’t been to a community fair in twenty years. Since we bought our Oregon farm I have a great excuse to go and see fair animals. The twelve mules grazing at Mule Springs will be leaving when their grazing rights run out in late fall, so I’m looking for another type of farm animal. What better place to see pigs, sheep, donkeys, and goats than at the county fair. Plus the animals here are the most trainable and gentle breeds, since children raise them for their animal science projects.


The video shows a girl preparing her prized sheep for the show ring while children’s goats wait patiently in their pens for a turn in the arena. Pigs and poultry are also popular “learn by doing” 4H projects, but this year only four pens hold cows.  These projects teach kids animal management skills and responsible caretaking.


Children outside the poultry barn show off their tame chickens, and an exhibitor offers five gentle guinea pigs for fair visitors to pick up and hold.


Photography is by far the largest exhibit in the exhibition hall, but few baked goods are on display.  In the 1930s mothers across the county would have entered their secret cake recipes and berry pies in the fair, but people don’t make time to bake desserts and breads like they use to.


The newest event at the fair is a sheep rodeo called “Wool Busters,” and it’s for kids weighing less than 60 pounds.  A four-year old boy wearing chaps shoots into the ring through a gate the announcer has just opened, and the boy is riding a sheep.  As long as they have their parents’ permission the kids can ride alone, or the child can choose to have helpers hold the sheep as he or she rides the length of the arena. The ring floor is padded with thick sawdust, and when the unaided tykes “hit” the dust, as they invariably do, they don’t get hurt. They do receive a warm round of applause and lots of hooting from onlookers.


This video gives you a little taste of what I saw at the Hood River County Fair, and the music is old time fiddle music—the type of music Bruce and I play. The tune you will hear is Call Me Shorty by Martha Scanlan.


Author’s Note: I’m so happy I figured out how to create a slideshow with music!  Thank you Leese for inspiring me to do this, and thanks Tim for giving me instructions!  I’m not sure how wordpress uploads video, so if you have a slower connection speed, I’d be interested to know if the video works for you.




Question: Does your area have a county fair? What is your favorite display, event, or part of your local fair?

11 thoughts on “Detour: Day at the County Fair

    1. Thank you! When Bruce heard that tune, he came running into my office saying –“who is that, what is that tune?” Then he was off onto the Internet searching out Martha Scanlan. I’m sure it will be on our practice list soon. LOL

  1. The Deschutes Co Fair is this weekend but I don’t think I’ll get up to it. But last summer I attended both the SE AK fair in Haines and the MN state fair. What a contrast! The Haines event had very little in the way of animals and rides but had some great music including some performances by friends from Ketchikan. My favorites at the MN fair were the dairy building and the busts made of butter of the local dairy “princesses” and a new (to me) building which houses a birthing center. For the entire 9-10 day run of the fair you can see all sorts of animals give birth and care for their very young charges. It’s really fantastic.

    1. The Mn fair sounds incredible- how extraordinary to have a birthing center at the fair. I guess butter and cheese is huge in MN as it is in Wisconsin where my best friend grew up. So, in Alaska, at least northern Alaska, we’d make the busts out of ice, but in MN butter– why not. Good to hear from you Karen. I keep wondering if you are enjoying Bend as much as we are loving The Dalles. 🙂 What a change we have both made.

  2. I loved this, Sher! I sat down to watch and listen after a tough day today, and that lively fiddle tune made me instantly want to get up and jig! Your camera angles and zooming technique (also known as the “Ken Burns Effect”!) really captured the character in those animals’ faces! :))

  3. In South Africa we have Agricultural Shows, which are often really big events, lasting for 2, 3 or more days. They also feature livestock and everything agricultural. I haven’t been to one for years. They don’t feature live music though, although there might be drum majorettes and a pipe band (or the like) to open proceedings. A thousand years ago, when I lived in Zimbabwe, I entered cakes in the baking section of the Bulawayo Agricultural show! didn’t win anything. But it was fun.

  4. I have never been to an agricultural show, though I’d love to, just to see what it is like. You made it look like such fun, Sher!

    And I love the video – it played really well. That fiddle music is sooo catchy and foot-stompin’.

    1. woo-hoo Thank you! Is you area, Reggie, too rural for a fair…? I mean do you have fairs in that part of SA, and you have not been to one, or is that you have not had the opportunity to go in your region?

  5. So enjoyed the video and the music! Took me back to my days of growing up in Nebraska. I’m kind of sad to hear that no one bakes anymore, although I still do. Maybe that’s because I like to eat it too much! Loved seeing those little kids on their sheep.

    1. Thanks! Yes I would imagine NE is a big fair state with all the agriculture happening there. I’m with you on the baking; I love to bake when I have a house full of visitors ready to enjoy it. 🙂

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