Malheur County Fair is ready to roll

By Pat Caldwell

The Enterprise

VALE — What a difference six months can make.

In January, the Malheur County Fairgrounds resembled a war zone with busted buildings and fences and questions about whether it would even recover.

Fast-forward to last week and Fair Manager Lynelle Christiani was preparing for the latest edition of Malheur County’s premier summer festival and the future is wide open.

Bloodied but unbowed, this year’s fair may be one of the best yet, Christiani said. The fair starts Tuesday, Aug. 1, and runs through that Saturday.

“I think it will be as big or bigger than it has ever been,” Christiani said.

The landscape, though, is changed. Renowned buildings – such as Girvin Hall – are gone, victims of the spate of severe winter storms that rolled over the area last winter.

“The better question to ask is what will be the same? The rodeo will be the same. But Girvin Hall will have tents over it and we will be showing sheep and goats in there,” Christiani said.

The small animal barn, for example, will be portable structure, she said, while the Red Barn will be “completely reconfigured” and portable showers will replace the old facilities.

Christiani said donations from residents helped with replacements.

“Different people have given us different pieces and parts,” said Christiani.

A good example of the challenges Christiani had to negotiate with the fair infrastructure occurred just recently.

“It occurred to us we didn’t have a wash rack for the sheep and goats so in the process of doing that we realized we don’t have a sewer system in the hog barn. We used to have a drain. But when they pulled down the milk parlor in Girvin Hall, that took down our entire sewer system,” Christiani said.

That circumstance could have been a showstopper but Christiani said in what is becoming the norm, fair officials quickly found a way to overcome the obstacle.

“It could have been horrible. But we have had Treasure Valley Plumbing working on a portable water system for each hog pen,” Christiani said.

By fair time, she said, the water will be available across the fairground. Where there are gaps in power sources, Christiani said the fair will have generators going during the five-day event.

“The livestock campers will have water in their camping areas,” she said.

Christiani said interest in the fair has been strong.

“Our barns are packed to capacity in animals,” said Christiani.

One thing that will not be at the fair this year is a carnival, but Christiani said there will be plenty of entertainment for everyone, including a monster truck demonstration, Tyco drummers, a concert Thursday night and the always-popular livestock sale.

Christiani said the fair also took another step to help attract more people.

“We have lowered the prices. We wanted to share this experience with more of our community,” said Christiani.