When the 115th Clackamas County Fair officially kicks off Tuesday morning, it will do so with a brand-new tagline: “Everything A County Fair Should Be.”
And new Fairgrounds and Events Center Executive Director Brian Crow, who moved to Canby in March and is excited to present his first Clackamas County Fair, and his team take that pledge seriously.
Fresh off its record-setting return in 2021, the Clackamas County Fair remains the crown jewel of Clackamas County’s summer events calendar, combining local food vendors and favorite treats, live music and entertainment, animal, produce and craft showcases, the Pioneer Village and Safety Town, a complete midway packed with carnival games and rides and so much more, not to mention one of the best rodeos in the country.
Never failing to follow through on its tagline promising “four hours of rodeo excitement in only two hours,” the Canby Rodeo is a world-class event and a major player on the national rodeo circuit.
“If you’ve never seen the Canby Rodeo, it really is amazing,” Crow said. “I’d definitely encourage you to come and check it out. They put on a great show.”
Crow likes to say that he and his team are not in the fair business or the entertainment business. Instead, they’re in the business of making memories—and business is good.
“We’re creating an experience for people to come to and make memories,” Crow said. “This fair has deep, deep roots in the community going all the way back to 1907. It’s hard to find anyone in Canby who doesn’t have some experience with the county fair.
“So that’s really what we strive for: to create those opportunities for families and adults to create memories that will last a lifetime.”
Crow joined the Clackamas County team after six years as the fairgrounds director and fair coordinator in Jefferson County, where he led two major construction projects and helped the fairgrounds grow even during the pandemic—staging the largest fair in Jefferson County history in 2021.
Before that, he enjoyed a long career in the entertainment and live music industry, headlined by the three years he served as executive producer of the Boots and Hearts Music Festival, a multi-day country music and camping festival in Ontario, Canada, and the second-largest camping and country music festival in North America.
He believes his experience in the music and hospitality industry prepared him well for county fairs and other large events.
“My transition into fair was pretty seamless,” he said. “A lot of the same elements come into play with music festivals, because you have stages, the carnival, food vendors. Really, the only thing I didn’t have was the agricultural piece with 4-H and FFA.”
Though originally an area of weakness for him, Brian has quickly adapted to the agricultural component. He now champions the central importance of agriculture to fairs in general and the Clackamas County Fair especially.
“Canby is unique, especially within the Portland metro area,” he says. “We have a very strong agricultural community here. And I think now, in today’s world, it is more important than ever to educate urban dwellers as to what the agricultural community brings. If ag fails, everything fails.
“You can’t go into the grocery store to buy bread, because there’s no wheat to make bread. I do feel a lot of the current generation doesn’t really understand where food comes from, and it’s really important for us to showcase agriculture and educate them.”
While the fairgrounds has stayed busy throughout the summer hosting a number of new large events, including Harefest, the Wild Hare Music Festival, and the Bigfoot Festival and Beyond, Brian’s main goal for the 2022 Clackamas County Fair is to simply to continue to build on the rich legacy that has endured for 115 years.
“When I came on board, I made it really clear that I have no plans on making big changes this year,” Crow said. “We’re doing some peripheral polishes, but really, I need to know how the engine runs before I can start tuning it up. I’d say my biggest mission is to preserve that classic county fair feel.”
The Clackamas County Fair and Canby Rodeo will be held from August 16 through the 20th. For more information or tickets, visit clackamascountyfair.com and canbyrodeo.com. For fair schedules, maps and information, also be sure to check out the free Clackamas County Fair app on Google Play and the Apple App Store.
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