Drive-In Approved for Clackamas County Fairgrounds

You asked; they delivered. A drive-in movie theater is coming to the Clackamas County Fairgrounds in Canby this summer.

The county this week approved draft plans for a 36×60-foot permanent screen in the “yellow lot” — a large field in the northwest corner of the fairgrounds, used for parking and camping during the Fair and other large events — along with a projector, FM transmitter, concessions, portable toilets and space for almost 400 cars (though current coronavirus restrictions are likely to cut that in half).

The screen is sure to see plenty of use this summer, with most large events canceled and other forms of entertainment (including traditional movie theaters) still closed or heavily restricted. But Fairgrounds Marketing and Event Coordinator Tyler Nizer said it will be used even after the Covid-19 threat has passed, to bring additional revenue during non-event weekends and offer another entertainment option to the community.

The project has been in the works for over a month, with the enthusiastic support of the County Fair Board and local community. The Canby Now Podcast‘s May 18 story reporting that a drive-in could maybe, possibly be in the works was shared almost 5,000 times and drew hundreds of supportive comments online.

But Nizer admits it was more challenging than he had initially anticipated.

“At first, I thought, ‘Let’s just put up some poles and a white tarp, and we’ll be good, right?'” he said with a laugh. “But it took a little bit more than that. It’s going to be quite the project.”

The drive-in is planned for the yellow lot in the northwest corner of the fairgrounds. Photo by Tyler Francke.

It has come together thanks to an extraordinary outpouring of support from the local business community. It’s gone almost like the ending of a superhero team-up movie, with every character fulfilling the role to which they’re most suited.

Oregon City-based ZCS Engineering & Architecture drew up the plans. Wilson Construction, a regional leader in building electrical infrastructure, is installing the utility poles that will frame the screen, and offering other technical expertise.

The screen will be a flat piece of steel, courtesy BBC Steel. (Its white color will be courtesy Blue Note Painting.) All About Concrete is contributing — you guessed it — concrete.

Canby Cinema 8 is partnering with the Fairgrounds on various aspects of the logistics, being the local experts in the movie business. The Canby Area Chamber helped arrange the various business connections, and the county and city of Canby provided additional help along the way.

Courtesy the Clackamas County Fairgrounds and Event Center.

Nizer said the fairgrounds does not have a firm timeline for the project, but hopes to be operational within the next couple of months — depending on how long it takes for some of the needed materials to come in.

Many of the details remain up in the air, as far as how the drive-in will be operated — and when — or what it will show. But the whole project has been about trying to bring something special to Canby, and Nizer said the Fairgrounds will continue to be open to input from the community as they move forward.

“You know, we’re here to host the best events, to have people enjoy themselves and just forget about what’s going on for a while,” he said. “With so many of our events canceled this year, we’re excited to be able to host something where the community can still enjoy themselves in a safe manner.”

The drive-in also does not have a name yet — and that’s where you come in. In years past, the Fairgrounds has asked community members to suggest the theme for the annual Fair; now, they’re going to the community to name their new drive-in. For details, stay tuned to the fairgrounds’ Facebook page.

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