A bird's eye view of the 2019 Oregon State Fair. (Saphara Harrell/Salem Reporter)

Oregon’s beloved fair returns to Salem this week for food, fun and excitement.

After last year’s break due to Covid, the Oregon State Fair is roaring back to life. The fair, running Aug. 27 through Sept. 6, promises a comeback with new events, surprises, entertainment and sharing.

“I think almost everyone who works for the Oregon State Fair has a memory or experience that draws them to the fair,” said Kim Grewe-Powell, CEO of Oregon State Fair. “I can’t wait to see everyone enjoying everything the fair has to offer. That is the best part of my job!”

The fair has taken place at the Oregon State Fairgrounds almost every year since 1862. And in 2021, it offers something for everyone.

For those who love carnival rides, four brand-new opportunities debut at the Fair this year: Vertigo, Round-Up, Tip Top and Eruption.

There will be many options of interest to animal and livestock lovers. The ever-popular Great American Petting Zoo returns, giving children across the state a chance to interact with farm animals. Exhibitors from around Oregon and beyond will show their beef cattle, swine and other livestock. Dairy cow aficionados will enjoy a range of exhibitions spread over three days, for Brown Swiss cows, Guernsey cows, Holstein and Jersey cows – and even more.

Llamas will be present for hearty admiration, as well as poultry and doves, rabbits and turkeys. Farmyard Follies, a live animal show, will present daily. Dog racing and a multitude of horse events will show, including categories like miniature horses, Tennessee walking horses, Peruvian horses and many more, are also on offer.

Twelve-week-old piglets flew down the race track on opening day at the 2019 Oregon State Fair. (Anna CK Smith/ Special to the Salem Reporter)

But that’s far from all. Grewe-Powell is especially excited about two fundraising events benefitting the Santiam Canyon and ongoing wildfire recovery efforts.

“We’re excited about our new Celebrate Oregon Harvest Festival, which takes the place of Pairings! this year,” she said. “The ticketed event kicks off Friday the 27th, with Willamette Valley wines [from 11 wineries] and complimentary regional food and music.” 

The food will include local beef, seafood and vegetable appetizers made with care by Chef Andrew Garrett. 

‘”The [Harvest Festival] event is a fundraiser for Santiam firefighters,” Grewe-Powell added. “It’s to honor the bravery and sacrifices they made in 2020, fighting the wildfire that ravaged our state.” 

The other fundraiser is a concert, the Ezra Ray Hart show on Bravery Day, Sept. 6. The show will raise money for the Canyon Rising group, to help rebuild the Santiam Canyon from the 2020 fires.

Competitions in the fair buildings are back again, with Oregon teen creativity shown in areas of beads, duct tape creations, and hanging crafts, such as macramé and mobiles, among many other categories. 

The crowd-favorite quilting exhibits always draw visitors for appreciation and inspiration. They will be on display this year with all the colors and designs fair attendees have come to expect.  

Among the crafts, Grewe-Powell is particularly looking forward to Ruthanne’s Creations, an exhibit featuring dresses and purses made from newspaper and road-maps, along with other creations made from recycled materials. “Also,” she said, “a Washed Ashore creation will be one of the many highlights in the building.” The Bandon, Oregon-based art studio creates sculptures out of trash that washes ashore on the coast to educate about ocean pollution.

Oregon State Fair has ensured that every single night of the fair, extraordinary talent will perform on stage. From Chicago to Pat Benatar to Collective Soul, music will be heard across the 185 acres of fairgrounds.

In response to the Oregon Health Authority’s mandate and the recent spikes in hospitalizations due to Covid, masks will be required both inside and outside buildings at the Fair this year, except when people are actively eating or drinking. No proof of vaccination or temperature check is required at entry.

Answers to almost every possible question, and the opportunity to obtain tickets to shows and events, can be found at oregonstatefair.org. Daily tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for kids, with online presale discounts and other deals available.

Writer Helen Caswell can be reached at [email protected]

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