After a year off due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Clackamas County Fair and Canby Rodeo are (finally) back.
The Clackamas County Fair Board unanimously voted to move forward with the beloved annual traditions in June.
And though a dizzying and unexpected surge in new coronavirus infections this summer fueled by the highly contagious new delta variant has dampened some people’s enthusiasm for large events (even those, like the fair, that are held primarily outdoors), organizers held firm.
“We all voted to go ahead with this in June,” board President Gary Linton said at a kick-off event held at the fairgrounds Saturday evening. “And we have faced some challenges in the past few weeks. But, by golly, we are going to have a fair and rodeo this year.”
Instead, determined staff and hundreds of local volunteers worked hard to produce in two months an event that typically takes 10 to 12. All of the classic fair elements are there, including 4-H events, animals, art exhibits, live music and other entertainment, rides and food.
After more than a year without the fair or any of the other large events that typically characterize life in Canby, thousands of area residents flocked to this one, Marketing and Event Coordinator Tyler Nizer said.
“People were really wanting to come back and support the fair,” Nizer said. “Our numbers were up about 40% for the rodeo and fair combined,”
The weather, unusually cool for mid-August — especially this summer — provided a huge boost, organizers believe.
“The animals, like any other athlete, perform better in the cool weather, and they did not disappoint,” said Rodeo Board member Todd Gary.
The rodeo, which takes place every night of the fair, did not sell out, but hosted what he described as a “really good Tuesday night crowd.”
“You could tell the enthusiasm was high,” Gary said. “It was awesome. Any time you have 20 world champions there, with 35 world championships between them, you know it’s going to be a good rodeo. Now that we’ve got the first one under our belts, we’re excited for the week ahead. We’re ready to rodeo.”
While some attendees expressed dismay at high food prices and the absence of carnival bracelets that typically allow parents to satisfy their children’s thirst for rides and games without taking out a second mortgage, most hailed the fair as a welcome return to some semblance of normalcy after the chaos of last year.
“I had a great time with my kiddos,” said Canby resident Erin Khooda. “The little one squealed with delight seeing the animals. The older one was taken by the experience of mining for gold [at Pioneer Village]. We ran into many friends, and it was great to see so many in our community out and about!”
“I liked thatthey moved the hobby hall stuff downstairs this year,” agreed Samantha Linn, a mother of four. “Overall, my kids just loved being back at the fair. It felt like a normal summer again.”
Damon Donner hailed the return of fair food — and all of the traditional favorites that go along with that.
“Got my first elephant ear in two years!” Donner said. “Too bad there were some booths and acts not there that normally are. But we understand. And hopefully, all normal acts and booths will be back next year. Thank you for having the fair!”
For Ashley Lowrie, the rodeo was the highlight.
“The rodeo was the absolute best thing ever!” she exclaimed. “Twenty world champions! The fair was so nice to be back to normal, but it was a little sad how much smaller it was compared to previous years. Definitely looking forward to next year when the barns are full, more entertainment, and hopefully, ride bracelets!”
“It was amazing,” Canby resident Linda Tate said of the overall event. “What they did in two months showed their dedication to us all. I very much appreciated the effort.”
The event runs through Saturday, and each day has a different theme for discounts. Wednesday is senior citizen day, where admission is only $2 for anyone 65 and older, as well as any accompanying grandchildren 12 and younger.
On Thursday entry is free for everyone until 3 p.m., and on Friday, tickets are free for all first responders, veterans and service members. Hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. this weekend.
For more information, visit clackamascountyfair.com/fair.
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