Malheur County Fair comes to town

The Malheur County Fair kicks off July 30. (The Enterprise/Isabella Garcia)

ONTARIO — The 110th annual Malheur County Fair is quickly approaching and there is so much interest in open class animal showing that fairgrounds manager Lynelle Christiani is having to ask people not to show, or at least only bring their animal for their show day and not the whole week.

“We’re packed to the gills,” Christiani said, adding that it’s a pretty nice problem to have. “We’re one of the few fairs in Oregon that can say that. It’s a good thing.”

After the snowstorm in early 2017, the fairgrounds had to hold some of the fair events in tents and focused on rebuilding in time for the 2018 fair, which attracted over 22,000 guests.

This year, with all of the infrastructure in place, the team was able to place its full attention on the event and, as always, hopes that this will be the year attendance breaks 25,000.

The fair, themed “Barn in the USA,” starts Tuesday, July 30, at 2 p.m. with family day and runs until midnight Saturday, Aug. 3. Open class, FFA and 4-H animal showings will take place Tuesday through Friday, with auctions and awards happening on Saturday.

Malheur County 4-H leaders estimated that over 300 4-H kids are participating in this year’s fair.

Check the Malheur County Fair website for more detailed show times.

Opening day of the fair costs $3, each day after is $5 for entry and a weeklong pass is $20.

Christiani highlighted Tuesday as a day not to miss, especially because of the lowered admission price —$3 instead of the usual $5 — and entertainment by horse whisperer Mike Thiel at 6 p.m. and EhCapa Bareback Riders from 7 to 10 p.m.

The EhCapa, or “Apache” spelled backwards, is a group of horse riders ages 8 to 19 who focus on building unique relationships with their horses. They ride bareback with just a leather strap, called a “tack rein,” around the horse’s neck.

The Apache are a group of Native American tribes from the Southwestern United States and while the riding group wears traditional Apache clothing during their performances, EhCapa riders do not have to be from an Apache tribe to join the group.

Wednesday brings the Tri-County Chamber breakfast at 7 a.m. in the Loafing Shed, Malheur County Team Roping at 7 p.m. and the Little Buckaroo Contest, a new event for young fairgoers ages 4 through 12, at 6:30 p.m.

Heather Madden, owner of Clothes for Does, proposed the idea for the buckaroos competition after seeing the number of younger siblings that come to the fair with their animal-showing siblings.

“The older siblings are in 4-H or FFA, so they’re coming to the fair every day,” Madden said. “Why not have an event for them?”

Split into three age groups, the kids will have a coloring contest and give a short speech about the theme of the parade. Each participant will ride out on a stick horse during Friday’s pre-rodeo at 8 p.m. and the winners get to ride onto the rodeo arena in a truck before the ICA rodeo Saturday night.

Applications for the contest can be found at the fairgrounds office or Clothes for Does shop at 1701 SW 4th Ave in Ontario.

On Thursday, “Celebrate Our Community” day, the Fairtime Concert Series brings Shane Smith & the Saints and Jesse Dayne & The Sagebrush Drifters to perform from 6 to 10 p.m. Shane Smith & the Saints, a five-piece band from Texas, has been gaining in popularity, especially since its most recent album, “Hail Mary,” debuted at No. 21 on the iTunes charts.

Christiani recommends that locals see the band while they have the chance.

“I doubt anyone in this area will be able to afford to see them again after this,” Chrstiani said. “They are something you should not be missing. For $5, you cannot think of a better evening.”

Carnival rides will be available in the afternoons until 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, the Ontario Kiwanis club is sponsoring a watermelon spitting contest at 5:30 p.m. on Friday and the whole week wraps up with rodeo dance from 10 p.m. to midnight at the fair grandstands.

News tip? Contact reporter Isabella Garcia: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

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