The show must go on. That was the takeaway from the Clackamas County Fair Board’s meeting at Horning Hall in Canby Thursday, at which it was voted unanimously to move forward with both the 2021 Fair and Canby Rodeo.
The fair — Canby’s largest annual event, drawing hundreds of thousands from across the state — was canceled last summer due to gathering size restrictions associated with the coronavirus pandemic.
But this year, with dwindling case counts and the vaccine rollout nearing the state’s goal of 70%, many large events are returning to the summer calendar — including most county fairs.
After giving a brief status update about the budget, food and entertainment vendors and the county’s coronavirus metrics, Fairgrounds Executive Director Laurie Bothwell recommended that the board move forward.
“I’ve done a lot of fairs,” Bothwell said. “We have been through 100-degree weather that wasn’t budgeted or expected … And we have survived. I think we can survive this very easily.”
Bothwell based her recommendation primarily on vaccination rates at the state and county level — and estimates that both metrics would meet their respective 70% and 65% goals by the end of this month.
Clackamas County needs to vaccinate fewer than 5,000 people to hit its target, while the statewide goal is now under 90,000.
“We’re so close, I think it would be a big mistake to not move forward with both the fair and rodeo,” she said. “The phone is ringing off the hook for both.”
The event will look different, Bothwell confirmed. Most of the large tents have been canceled this year and the stages are being consolidated to save money in the uncertain fiscal environment. There will be the traditional talent show and other entertainment.
The fair’s carnival vendor, Funtastic Traveling Shows, has altered its practices amid the pandemic at smaller events that were allowed to go ahead in other states — selling passes that cover a certain time window rather than number of rides.
The midway will actually be larger this year, Bothwell predicted, with two more rides than have been included in earlier fairs.
“I’ve been talking to a lot of fair managers, and a lot of them have expanded their carnival,” she said. “In talking with Funtastic, they’ve been doing some of the smaller fairs up in Washington, and their sales have doubled so far this year.
The level of excitement for this year’s fair, in and even outside the community, is unlike anything Bothwell and her team have seen.
“I think this could be our biggest fair ever,” she said. “The phone has been ringing off the hook. Everyone really wants us to do the fair and rodeo this year.”
Several representatives of Canby 4-H and Future Farmers of America were on hand at Thursday’s meeting and said they expect the livestock auctions to return to the fairgrounds this summer as well.
Ticket prices for the fair and rodeo will remain in line with what the board had previously approved in January 2020: $10 for adult fair entrance, $5 for children 7-12 and seniors 65-74. Children 6 and younger and seniors 75 and older get in free.
Tickets for the rodeo are as follows: $10 general seating, $12 reserved, $13 grandstand, $20 bullpen (Tues-Thurs); $12 general, $13 reserved, $15 grandstand, $25 bullpen (Fri-Sat).
The Clackamas County Fair and Canby Rodeo will be held Aug. 17-21 at the county fairgrounds in Canby. Tickets are expected to go on sale within the week and may be purchased online at clackamascountyfair.com.
The beloved event is a more-than-a-century-old tradition in Clackamas County, having been held annually since 1907 — with the only exceptions being in 1917-18 during World War I, in 1942-45 during World War II and in 2020.
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