As the Umatilla County Fair opens Tuesday morning, there are a few things fair-goers can do to help traffic flow smoothly to and from the venue.
Fair coordinator Angie McNalley said organizers are hoping people take advantage of the free park-and-ride shuttles that will be available each afternoon and evening to help cut down on traffic.
Mid Columbia Bus Company will be making continuous loops between stops from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, picking up riders from the Hermiston Community Center (415 S. Highway 395), Hermiston City Hall (180 N.E. Second St.), the Wal-Mart parking lot at the end near McDonald’s (1350 N.E. First St.) and Hermiston High School near the Webber Field entrance (600 S. First St.). The shuttle will pick up and drop off by the east ticket booth of the fairgrounds (1705 E. Airport Rd).
On Friday and Saturday the MidCo shuttle will run from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. on all the same stops except city hall. Kayak Public Transit will be handling the pick-ups and drop-offs at city hall on those days, also from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. but with a break from 8-9 p.m. McNalley said the MIDCO shuttles are not handicapped-accessible but the Kayak bus is. Both buses are air-conditioned.
If people choose to pay for parking by bringing their vehicle to the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center, McNalley and EOTEC general manager Al Davis said the things will go much faster if everyone has the correct change — $5 — ready to hand out their window as soon as they pull up.
As they approach the fairgrounds, vehicles with paid general admission need to get in the left lanes, prepaid parking passes are in the center lane, and rodeo and handicapped parking should stick to the right.
“Know your lane!” McNalley said. “Be ready. That’s our motto for the fair — Stirrup Some Fun and know your lane.”
After traffic jams on the first-ever day of the fair at EOTEC last year, organizers switched up the parking and traffic to help with the flow. At a recent city council meeting Davis said they have learned from last year and believe they have a good system planned for this year that will keep things flowing.
Temperatures are expected to be well over 100 degrees mid-week, but McNalley said there will plenty of places to sit down and eat under canopies and people can stop inside the air-conditioned event center to check out the exhibits and booths there any time they’re feeling hot. Cold beverages and ice cream will also be on sale throughout the venue, and McNalley said a new zip-line this year should help “put some wind through your hair.”