More animals, flowers competing for top honors as Marion County Fair returns

The Marion County Fair returns to the Oregon State Fair and Expo Center this weekend, July 6-9, with more than 2,000 pigs, goats, sheep, homegrown flowers, and other agricultural items awaiting judging.

In recent years, fair organizers cut back events to recover from Covid, but for 2023, Thursday events are back, commercial vendors have sold out, and there is a 60% increase in items entered from the youth involved in 4-H and FFA. 

“The animals and kids have been growing back strong since Covid,” said Jill Ingalls, the event coordinator for the fair. 

From pie, livestock, costume, and flower contests to music, food, Lego-building, crafts, and rides the fair continues to grow with something new and fresh for people every year. The full fair schedule is available online.  

Ingalls said it has been great to see this event come back into full swing after Covid. “Not just for us who work in this industry, but especially for the youth,” she said.

The youth in the 4-H and Future Farmers of America programs often spend 9 to 10 months out of the year getting ready to culminate at the fair, said Ingalls. 

The 230 kids participating have entered over 2,000 items to be judged. 

Submissions are mostly of livestock, including turkeys, chickens, goats, llamas and more. But entries can also be flowers grown, original poems or other artwork. 

Kids can start entering small animals they have raised at age 5. It’s a great way for them to learn about the livestock raising process and the business side of agriculture, said Ingalls. 

During the fair, the livestock raised by 4-H and FFA participants get auctioned off, most often to be butchered or to continue breeding. The majority of the auction money for a given animal goes back to the youth that raised it to help cover the costs for them to purchase their animal, feed, any vet bills, and help buy another animal for next year’s fair.  

Thursday, dubbed Honor Day, will be a day to show gratitude to all of Marion Counties’ veterans, active-duty military, and first responders. 

There is free admission for all of these individuals and their families from 4-6 p.m. 

Friday is Fun at the Fair Day, with 4-H and FFA sheep, goat, and small animal showmanship and headliner Bohemian Queen, a Queen cover band.

Saturday is Ag Day, which will be kicked off with an opening ceremony, followed by the auctions, and performers with headliner, Aaron Watson an American country music singer and songwriter. 

Sunday is Family Fun Day where there are a lot of local groups, arts and crafts, and special guests such as Disney princesses, Marvel superheroes and more. Sunday is free for all kids under 12. 

“Sunday is my favorite day because the main stage is all about the locals,” said Ingalls. 

This year they are excited to bring back the Pirates Parrot show, a crowd favorite from before Covid. 

Since the city’s Fourth of July event at the fairgrounds was only two days before the start of the fair, they had to do an overnight turnaround to finish set up.  

The fair has been in planning for an entire year. Once last year’s fair was cleaned up, meetings started to prepare for this year. The board meets every month to make sure the weekend is “flawless.”

Ingalls said her favorite part, “is when the public comes through the gates and you see all the happy faces.” 

The fair will run Thursday 10 a.m. – 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. – 11 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Tickets can be bought at a discounted price of $7 for general admissions online, or $9 at the gate. Tickets are $5 for youth ages 6-11 and seniors ages 62 and over. Children 5 and under are free every day. 

The weather throughout the weekend is estimated to have highs between 85-90 degrees according to the National Weather Service.  

“Start hydrating now for a great fair,” said Ingalls.

Contact reporter Natalie Sharp: [email protected] or 503-522-6493.

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Natalie Sharp is an Oregon State University student working as a reporter for Salem Reporter in summer 2023. She is part of the Snowden internship program at the University of Oregon's School of Communication and Journalism.