The carnival at the Marion County Fair in 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)
When the Marion County Fair rolls into the Oregon State Fair and Expo Center next weekend, it will be without the restrictions and pared down version of events of last year, attributed to the Covid pandemic.
“This year, there is nothing missing from the fair,” said fair event coordinator Jill Ingalls.
State restrictions and local precautions in 2021 saw fewer stables in the barn full and a drop in entries ranging from baking to poetry. Children could not camp on site with their animals and fewer animals could bunk down at the fair grounds as well.
This year, there is no mask mandate or restriction on crowds and the fair is being planned accordingly.
“We are back and packed,” Ingalls said.
To date, she said there are “thousands” of entries including livestock from 436 children ranging from rabbits to sheep to horses and cows.
The carnival is also back as well as the traditional stage shows. Country star Breland is set to perform Friday night while Frank Ray will take the stage on Saturday.
Sunday, dubbed Family Day, will have children performing and performances for children on stage throughout the day. A full schedule of fair events is available online.
A pig walks through sawdust while being shown at the Marion County Fair in 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)
New this year, visitors can watch sheepdog trials in the horse stadium on Saturday.
“It’s amazing,” Ingalls said. “They do their thing and herd without anyone telling them what to do, it seems like.”
Also new this year is the lack of a Thursday opening. Instead, the fair will run Friday through Sunday.
“With Fourth of July so close to us, we just packed everything into Friday,” Ingalls said.
That packed schedule includes all day attractions including racing pigs, sheriff demonstrations, Brad’s World of Reptiles, flying race dogs and a kid fit obstacle course.
Traditional fair food will be available again this year with German, Mexican and barbecue already on the menu alongside Dairy Women Ice Cream and Bob’s curly fries.
“We are so excited to have the Marion County Fair back in full swing this year,” said Marion County Fair Board Chair Mike Adams in a statement. “The animals are back, and the barns are full. There are new things to see, more food, more activities, great music, and hours of great entertainment all weekend.”
Tickets are $8 for adults online and $9 at the gate but Ingalls said there is a middle ground.
“The day of, if you’re waiting in line and hop on your phone to buy tickets, you can save the dollar because we want to keep the line moving,” she said.
To date, there is no estimate of pre-ticket sales but Ingalls said she expects a large crowd. The fair, which has been operating since 1854, saw one of its best years in 2021 despite the Covid restrictions.
“We were one of the first big events after the mask mandate dropped and we tripled our usual attendance,” Ingalls said. “We are watching other events and so far everyone has had big numbers so we expect a lot of people.”
Contact reporter Caitlyn May at [email protected].
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