In the community

Food, fun and family at the Malheur County Fair

ONTARIO – From the top of the Freak Out carnival ride, the Desert Sage Event Center and Malheur County Fairgrounds stretches out underfoot.

As the quick descent on the ride begins, the smiling faces of those waiting in line for their turn are evident below.

The 113th Malheur County Fair got underway on Tuesday, Aug. 2, with competitions, carnival rides, and plenty of delicious food. After a soft summer rain Tuesday morning, the fair welcomed cooler summer weather for the week ahead.

Friday and Saturday night an Idaho Cowboys Association rodeo took over the arena each night.

One thing that never changes during fair week is the county’s sweet tooth.

Howard Girvin’s Kettle Korn Factory had a line of expectant customers clamoring for a large bag of the treats.

“I showed animals here as a kid,” said Girvin.

In the loafing shed, families relax and enjoy lemonade from B’s Lemonade stand and ice cream from The Dairy Farm run by the Ontario Knights of Columbus.

“The Knights of Columbus have had this for, well, I don’t know how long,” said Dave Bowers. “We’ve been in Ontario for over 100 years.”

A crowd of teenagers passed their cash across the counter and Bowers ordered “four swirls!” over his shoulder.

Roan Cooper takes her pink push car for a stroll to snow cone vendors at the Malheur County Fair on Aug. 4, 2022. (The Enterprise/CYNTHIA LIU)

The Dairy Barn isn’t the only thing with some history on the fairgrounds. In the Malheur County fairgrounds office, a small navy pennant with gold lettering reads: “2nd Annual Malheur County Fair.”

A flurry of activity swirled around fair manager Dawnita Haueter. In the same breath she answered livestock questions, solved a parking conflict, and sold a handful of tickets to the Bellamy Brothers concert later that night.

“I just want to see the smiles on everyone’s faces,” said Haueter. She said the biggest change to the fair so far was the addition of the carnival when the vendor pulled through Sunday afternoon at the last moment.

“Surprise! We have a carnival,” Haueter said laughing.

The carnival games and rides illuminate the fairgrounds in the evening, drawing crowds to pop balloons with darts and throw ping-pong balls into jars.

Dan Spade, one of the barkers running the ping-pong ball toss, showed off a tank of goldfish that carnival-goers could win if they made a ball into one of the tiny jars.

“You know who wins?” Spade asked. “Seven-year-olds with bad luck. Guys who can shoot 3s don’t win any fish.”

Across the way from Spade, a little girl’s father celebrates victory and a giant stuffed toy prize which he quickly hands over to the excited child.

Fairgoers try their luck at a ring toss game at the Malheur County Fair on Aug. 5, 2022. The targets? Dozens of fast bobbing, bright yellow jumbo ducks. (The Enterprise/CYNTHIA LIU)

“You know how much people spend on counseling?” Spade shouts to a gathering crowd. “So much, but if you win and adopt one of these fish and give it a good home, you can talk to it for hours.”

Later Tuesday evening Rico Nova and the Desired took the stage to open for the Bellamy Brothers. People of all ages danced on the rodeo grounds as the sun sank lower and lower.

On Friday night, starting at 6 p.m. before the rodeo, Fuerza Regional, Clave19 and Dosis la Potencia Musical took the fair stage to round out the weekend’s musical entertainment.

Ribbons of gold, silver, white and blue began to dot the competition entries in the Red Barn by Wednesday afternoon. A double crust plum pie made by Ontario’s Robert Komoto took first place in the pie contest, with one slice delicately removed for tasting.

Against one wall photographs from all over Malheur County created a collage of creative county fair entries.

For the FFA and 4-H livestock competitors in the stalls, the anticipation for Saturday’s junior livestock auction was palpable.

Lily Hale said the hardest part of raising her pig was the training.

“She’s a bit stubborn,” said Hale. When asked what she was looking forward to for the rest of the fair weekend she smiled a devilish grin, “I’m here for…money.”

Hale isn’t alone in her desire to win her competition group. Across the livestock stalls FFA and 4-H members work tirelessly to keep their animals comfortable and ready to be judged.

“He’s under weight,” said Nicole Fruhm from Willowcreek 4-H. Her pig, named Nikki Minaj, was asleep in his stall not far away. “So, I fed him extra. I like getting more experience and learning for next year.”

Perhaps the county fair’s smallest competitor was Georgie, a black Netherland dwarf rabbit, who waited patiently in his cage for dinner next to his pink reserve champion ribbon.


PHOTO GALLERY: Move-in day at Malheur County Fairgrounds

Kids take pride in their livestock at Malheur County Fair

News tip? Contact reporter Mac Larsen at [email protected]

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