In the community, Local government

Malheur County Fair Board still seeks new manager as major projects move ahead

ONTARIO – There is a lot going on at the Malheur County Fairgrounds.

Projects will upgrade the fairgrounds power system, replace one of the main buildings and add surveillance cameras. Meanwhile, a donation from a local business will help improve the rodeo grounds.

A building kit to replace Building I at the fairgrounds will be delivered at the end of December. That project is funded by a $455,000 federal grant. The project is “a top priority” because the fair board wants to have it finished by next June, said Malheur County Fair Board member Jen Hall.

The building is key because during the fair it used to house dairy cattle and as an overflow for sheep and goats.

The building, said Hall, is decades old.

The fairgrounds is also using $2 million allocated by the Legislature in 2022 for several projects that are either underway or will start within the next few months.

One of the top priorities for that money, said Hall, is to upgrade the electrical system serving the fairground campgrounds.

“This project will have new lighting so the campground and the facility is lit up for safety,” said Hall.

The upgrade will allow the campground to serve modern campers and motor homes, said Hall.

“The campers now are not those little tiny campers that that people used to use. Now they are 28 feet wide, have slide outs and big air conditioners. We don’t have that type of power to provide for those,” said Hall.

The fairgrounds charges $30 night for camping.

“We do not have enough power incoming to the fairgrounds to adequately supply what our outcomes now need to be,” said Hall.

The upgrade will also help boost power for buildings at the fairgrounds, said Hall.

“We are also hoping it will be a benefit if there happens to be some type of emergency or natural disaster in our area so we can house people,” said Hall.

Hall said the fair board wants to complete the power project by the 2024 fair in August.

The state money will pay to install surveillance cameras at the fairgrounds, said Hall.

“We’ve had a lot of theft and other issues so the cameras will help with that,” she said.

Hall said the fair also recently received a $277,000 grant from Business Oregon, the state economic development agency. That money, she said, will be used to redo the kitchen in the commercial building. The upgrade to the kitchen isn’t scheduled to begin until after the 2024 fair.

“We are just finishing the planning and we hope to turn the kitchen into a registered commercial kitchen,” said Hall.

Hall said a commercial kitchen will diversify how people can utilize the fairgrounds.

“People would be able to rent it and make their homemade jams and jellies. So, if people want to make food to sell it gives us another opportunity,” said Hall.

The rodeo grounds also recently received a big boost from Cowboys Bar & Grill in Ontario. The restaurant donated a roping chute to the rodeo grounds.

“We are trying to use the $2 million in a very effective way. We’ve meticulously thought about what projects can be best done for the future of the fairgrounds,” said Hall.

Hall said the state money will help the fairgrounds “get back on track.”
“The fair has not been able to be property taken care of in years,” said Hall.

Some of the upgrades, said Hall, won’t be obvious to fairgoers.

“Then there are things the public will see and they be like ‘wow,’” said Hall.

Hall said the fair board has its gaze firmly fixed on the future. “We are trying to move forward and we are not going to stop. We are working hard to make good things happen and to make good decisions,” said Hall.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE – The Malheur Enterprise delivers quality local journalism – fair and accurate. You can read it any hour, any day with a digital subscription. Read it on your phone, your Tablet, your home computer. Click subscribe – $7.50 a month.