The Oregon State Fair will raise its tent for the 156th time beginning Friday, Aug. 26 and pack it in on Monday, Sept. 5.
In between, organizers are expecting big crowds and a party to end the summer.
“There is a reason why we are Oregon’s biggest party,” said fair spokesperson Kimberly Jacobsen in a statement. “Our fair team works hard all year to scout new and diverse entertainment acts and attractions and cultivate fresh experiences. We combine those with the fair traditions that families love and that keeps people coming back every year for summer’s big finish.”
Impacted by Covid the last two years, there aren’t expected to be any of the same social distancing or masking requirements in place, clearing the way for the return of some fair favorites like the Pavilion Events and a full barn of animals open to the public.
Live music, food vendors, the carnival, science shows, magic shows, aerial daredevils, monster trucks and rodeo activities will also be available for fair goers this year. Plus, ways to save on tickets and all around fair costs.
“It takes a lot of teamwork and coordination to put on an event of this magnitude,” said Kim Grewe-Powell, CEO of the Oregon State Fair and Exposition Center, in a statement. “We are extremely grateful for our very talented fair staff and hundreds of seasonal workers and volunteers who partner with us to make the Oregon State Fair an event to remember. I am so proud of our 2022 fair lineup and I invite everyone to come out and enjoy summer’s big finish.”
Though corn dogs, sno cones and rides on the Zipper are state fair mainstays, there’s plenty more to see and do. Here’s Salem Reporter’s guide to things you shouldn’t miss.
Engines will start revving on Sept. 3 and Sept. 4 with monster truck shows starting at 2 p.m. promising trucks doing all sorts of tricks and stunts. Admission is free with a fair ticket – and the motor mania will close Sept. 5 at 2 p.m. with a small car demolition derby.
The Hell on Hooves Summer Showdown Finale Rodeo is scheduled for Aug. 26 and Aug. 27 beginning at 7 p.m. and will feature bareback riding, barrel racing and poker with bucking bulls. Rodeo Lights and Summer Nights will follow the rodeo each night for a concert featuring Ned LeDoux on Aug. 26 and Maddie and Tae on Aug. 27. Fast pass ticket holders (an additional $5 ticket) will have access to dancing on the Pavilion dirty floor and a private bar.
Chocolate cake contest
The annual chocolate cake contest was a mainstay for Salem legend Gerry Frank, but his death doesn’t mean an end to the tradition. In honor of Frank’s 60 years as a cake judge, the contest now bears his name and will take place Sunday, Sept. 4 at 2 p.m. in the Creative Living Hall. Tom Hoffert, CEO of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce, will judge.
Enter your best cake by bringing it to the Creative Living building the day of the contest. Entrants will receive free admission to the fair and a copy of Gerry Frank’s “Oregon” guidebook, courtesy of his estate.
R&B, county and other big acts are headed to the fair this year. Tickets for all eight shows are available online and start at $40, which includes free fair admission. VIP tickets start at $100 and include free parking, a souvenir lanyard, priority entrance, special good service, access to VIP beverage bar and reserved seating. Set to hit the stage first is Rascal Flatts lead singer Gary LeVox on Aug. 29. Shaggy follows him Aug. 30, Bethel Music will be featured Aug. 31. TLC is scheduled for Sept. 1, Scotty McCreery on Sept. 2 and the Beach Boys on Sept. 3. The fair concert series will wrap up with La Adictiva Banda San Jose de Mesillas on Sept. 4 and Nelly on Sept. 5. All concerts begin at 7 p.m. other than Nelly who will take the stage at 4 p.m.
If you’re already at the fair and want to check out a concert, there is a limited number of seats reserved on a first come, first serve basis.
Judging in many of the 4-H and Future Farmers of America contests is underway now before the fair opens, but the prizewinning animals will be on display for all to see. The poultry competition was canceled this year due to avian flu concerns, but Oregon’s finest rabbits, llamas, pigeons, goats and more will be there for you to greet.
Dia de la familia
Sponsored by O’Reilly Auto Parts, this bilingual feature returns to the fair. Aug. 28 and Sept. 4 will feature bicultural and bilingual entertainment and activities on the Spirit of Oregon Stage. Activities include Loteria, tortilla art and performances by acts like La Chomba and Los Humildes Hermanos Ayala.
A multi-breed horse show will start Aug. 28 and run through the end of the fair. It showcases horses over the course of nine days in the Horse show Stadium Arena. Performances are scheduled each day beginning at 9 a.m. with special performances in the afternoon starting at 2 p.m. Horses will participate in a salute to veterans and first responders and put on a draft horse pulling contest. Miniature horses, ponies, mules, burros, gypsy horses, drum horses and Tennessee walking horses are just some of the breeds that will be on display.
Creative Living exhibits
The live acts get much of the attention at the fair, but the quieter Creative Living exhibits are worth a visit. Inside the exhibit hall, you’ll find a range of artwork from Oregonians, including poetry, calligraphy and photography – much of it for sale. The Oregon State Archives will have a special exhibit of promotional travel photos taken by the state highway department during the 1930s. There are also building block exhibits, award-winning quilts and even a contest for table decoration. Plus, who doesn’t love taking pictures of the state’s largest pumpkin and best sunflower?
What to know
The Oregon State Fair opens at 10 a.m. on Friday and closes at 10 p.m. Monday, Sept. 5 at the state fairgrounds, 2330 17th St N.E. Some traffic changes and turn restrictions will be in effect on city streets near the fairgrounds, and the city has put “no parking” signs in nearby residential neighborhoods which are in effect from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day during the fair.
Closing hours vary between 10 and 11 p.m daily. Carnival rides do not open until 11 a.m. each day. Parking is $5 per vehicle and passes can be purchased online.
Tickets are currently on sale and available at Wilco Farm Stores and online at oregonstatefair.org/tickets for $8 until the fair opens. Tickets are also available at the gate at $12 for adults, $10 for kids and $3 for seniors over 65. Children under five are admitted for free.
Contact reporter Caitlyn May at [email protected].
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Caitlyn May served as a journalist for nearly a decade in Nevada and in Linn Lane counties in Oregon with a focus on rural stories and long-form journalism. A graduate of both Oregon State University and the University of Oregon, she currently serves as an elementary school teacher but returns to journalism now and then, remaining a dedicated supporter of the Fourth Estate.