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Oregon State Fair: Fun Favorites and New Attractions
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The 11-day Oregon State Fair, held in Salem, offered a mix of new events and long-time favorites according to fair spokesperson Dan Cox. The late August fair, which began 153 years ago, still offers Motosport events at GK Machine Mania, an Artisan Village, and 48 exciting carnival rides. Fair favorites such as the skilled X-Treme Air Dogs, pie-eating contests, and plenty of funnel cakes and corn dogs were greatly enjoyed; but new experiences were also abundant.

The fair’s slogan this year, “Where Fun Shines” was certainly visible every evening on the midway which was open until either 10 or 11 p.m. every evening, taking advantage of comfortable summer evening temperatures.

The fair began in 1861, and one thing that hasn’t changed since then is the fair’s often bucolic setting, with grassy areas and an oak grove lending a relaxed atmosphere over the fairgrounds’ 185-acres. The appeal of livestock, from pigs and piglets to sheep, llamas, and horses has not diminished either.

But certain elements of change were in the air at the fair this year. One change was the physical layout of the fair, Cox reports. The fair’s design was altered to locate children’s attractions more centrally; particularly in regard to kiddie rides in the carnival area. The rides for small fries were also positioned closer to the food court. Also placed nearby, the Familyville Stage, with new entertainment offered every 30 minutes.

Brand new this year – the Bug-Ology exhibit. There were no “bugs” to work out when it came to the appeal of this exhibit. With interactive educational stations, a butterfly exhibition, and large robotic caterpillars, kids and adults alike flocked to the exhibition. There were even edible bug treats served up in style at the Bug Bites Bar, and photos ops with a scorpion and tarantula. There was a Spider Forest, too.

A lot tastier than bugs, deep fried caramel apples were a new hit in the fun food category. Available at just one booth, there was something of a treasure hunting aspect to finding the super popular food, something Cox said visitors found enjoyable.

At the carnival, the new 122-foot Star Tower was, Cox reports, the “tallest swing ride to ever appear at the Oregon State Fair.” Riders were lifted up the height of the tower and swung in a 60-foot circle, moving both up and down.
With attractions provided through Rainier Amusements of Portland, the midway featured seven new rides in all, along with a collection of a games and past-favorite thrillers. Individual tickets were .50 cents a piece with most rides requiring 7 to 10 tickets.

With so many choices, what were among the top picks by fair goers? One classic, the All-Alaskan Racing Pigs drew crowds for an exciting racetrack event. The Oregon Dairy Women Barn served up copious amounts of soft serve ice cream cones and rich sundaes. BBQ sandwiches, curly fries, and elephant ear pastries were all sought-after treats.

Cooking demonstrations proved popular too, with events such as the crafting of ahi tuna poke pinwheels by Ohana Spice Trading Company. Some popular vendor booths were practical as well as fun, such as the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Insect Pest Prevention and Noxious Weed Programs, through which experts in these areas offered fairgoers the chance to play games, win prizes, and learn about preventing invasive species like hogweed. And interactive science demonstrations, including robotics, and a robotics competition, were also well attended. One of the newest competitions at the Oregon State Fair, remote control vehicles drew a lot of crowd interest.

Gem and mineral lovers enjoyed the Willamette Agate and Mineral Society exhibit, which included a display of Oregon’s state rock, the Thunder Egg, as well as wide collection of rocks found in organ from agate to petrified wood. The charming Artisan Village gave shoppers and browsers a look at jewelry, wood art, leather, and lavender as well as ceramics and fine arts.

Contests from goat milking competitions to Home Brew Beer also resounded with fair patrons.

On the live entertainment side of things, Cirque Zuma Zuma, described as dancing, drumming, and acrobatic acts in an “African-style” Cirque du Soleil styled show, performed at the fair daily. American Idol: Live! 2018, a touring magic show titled Masters of Illusion, and the Christian-rock band Skillet were among the many popular entertainment offerings. Family-friendly fun acts were the focus of the nine different acts performing, according to Cox; renowned country stars performed at the Roots & Boots Tour event including Sammy Kershaw, Collin Raye, and Aaron Tippin. Closing the fair on Monday, Sept. 3rd, Old Dominion, the 2018 Academy of Country Music Awards winner performed. Rock was not forgotten either with a Friday night concern by STYX, Kool and the Gang drew crowds along with the Village People, Steppenwolf performed with special guests The Guess Who for a rocked-out blast from the past. All concert general admissions were free, but first come/first serve; VIP tickets were also available for purchase.

Speaking of tickets, Cox notes that the fair itself was more than a “fair deal.” Adult admission was $8, kids attended for $6, and for seniors 65 and up, admission was a $1 every day of the fair. $5 advance purchase tickets were available online and at the fair’s box office; carnival ride wristbands were offered online for $37.50 without a service fee; $50 at the fair. On the last day of the fair, Heroes Day meant current and retired military vets, first responders, and wildland firefighters as well as their immediate families were admitted free. And working with the Ticket to Dream Foundation, the fair sent 800 foster youth to the fair. $3 Thursday Admission tickets, $2 Tuesday, and a $5 Oregon Lottery Day added to the collection of fair-going bargains.
Although attendance was strong, finalized numbers are not yet available.
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