It’s only three months until Fair! Does that statement make anyone else nervous? 

I think our contractor Tim Davis of Rywest Holmes, Fruitland, and our architect Gene Ulmer would agree with me that there is a lot to do before we’re ready to host a County Fair. I have been posting project pictures on the Malheur County Fairgrounds Facebook page, so you can jump onto our page and take a look. It really is impressive what has transpired here in the last year. 

It’s been a wild rollercoaster ride since last year’s destruction and then watching Steve’s Backhoe team, Glenn Brothers Construction and now Tim (and many subcontractors) work through the mess and come through with the most amazing buildings. 

The Fair Board has worked with project manager Jeff Schott of Pillar Consulting and Gene for a year now. We started with a town hall meeting and then a steering committee which helped the Fair Board decide what was wanted and needed by the community. That put Gene and Jeff in the position of producing plans to make 30,000 people happy! 

As for the Fair Board, when this started we knew very little about commercial construction, but we all knew and took very seriously the magnitude of the projects ahead. We all wanted to utilize the insurance money to rebuild what we felt was best for the fairgrounds. 

Did you notice I said fairgrounds, not fair? The Fair Board is responsible for managing the fairgrounds. One week of the year we host the best event in the state, our Malheur County Fair. However, that hectic, fun-filled week does not pay the bills for the other 51 weeks. 

The Fair Board is responsible for paying the bills; tax dollars are not part of our revenue. We rent the Red Barn, Commercial Building and Arena for events all year long. In 2017 we rented our facility for 72 events! We also board horses and have RV spaces available for travelers. Last year we had over 450 RV-ers and nearly 400 horses stay on the grounds. 

I mention this because when the Fair Board was deciding what was built and what amenities were put where on the grounds, the entire year had to be considered. When the construction is complete, your fairgrounds will be so much better than it was before all the destruction. 

Now you know that we are not just a Fair. We are a facility to rent for a wedding, a reception, a roping, a family reunion, a Mexican rodeo, quinceanera or a prom. 

The Fair Board made the decision this spring to re-brand our facility. What that has meant to the Fair Board is reassessing our goals, our visions, and our business goals. Some of these topics had not been addressed for many years, if ever. We need to be consistent in all of our dealings, and we wanted to be rid of the “we’ve always done it that way” mentality and create a vision and goals appropriate to our current demographics and business dealings to get to where we want to be in five or 10 years. The Fair Board’s No. 1 mission is to have your fairgrounds standing strong when your kids or grandkids are ready to participate at the County Fair. 

Meantime, we are crazy busy, already, getting ready for the 109th Malheur County Fair, July 31-Aug. 4. The theme is “Country Pride, County Wide” and the colors are red, white and blue. We expect the barns to be bustin’ at the seams. We still have room in the Commercial Building for your craft or commercial businesses to have a booth. We lowered the booth price this year to allow more folks to participate. 

Last year we had 22,000 people come through the gate for fair. With a carnival returning this year in addition to the ICA rodeo, tractor pull and an amazing concert – Micky and the Motorcars, Tylor and the Trainrobbers and Muzzie Braun – plus fair food, we are anticipating the biggest fair numbers ever! 

On Serve Day, April 28, volunteers painted our food court, planted flower pots, and transplanted trees donated by Malheur Nursery. They weeded flower beds and spread mulch donated by Ontario Home Depot. We also got set up to do drip systems for our new Hog Barn trees and the trees planted on the west fence line. Thank you to everyone who helped. 

For folks who haven’t heard, Jeff Burkhardt is spearheading the new wash rack to be built south of the beef arena. Please call Jeff or a board member if you are interested in helping with this massive undertaking. 

This Saturday is Oregon State Serve Day – and we hope to see you here to help paint the Rodeo Crow’s Nest. Depending on how many Beavs show up, we’ll head over to the Sheep and Goat barns to paint the eaves. 

If you are interested in helping here at the fairgrounds, in any capacity, call or stop by. 

Lynelle Christiani is the manager of the Malheur County Fairgrounds.