Another year, another fair. Umatilla County Fair employees and community partners called the 2018 event a success, sticking with the things that worked and changing those that didn’t.
Fair coordinator Angie McNalley said they wouldn’t have numbers for fair attendance until later in the week, but said the busiest day of the fair was Saturday and the busiest evening was on Friday.
She said fair employees learned from last year’s fair, the first in the new Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center venue, and changed a few logistical things.
“We learned a lot last year about foot traffic, and where to place things,” she said. “We’re still working on getting the flow moving in parts of the fair that people can’t see right when they walk in. But we vastly improved (the flow).”
She said they also made parking more efficient than last year, bringing in people from the Toyota Center in Kennewick to help.
Though it was hot and windy, McNalley said people still came out, and that the weather sent people into the air-conditioned building more often, driving traffic to vendors and to the 4-H exhibits.
“We can’t plan the weather,” she said. “We tried to make up for that with misters, and some of our vendors stepped up as well.”
Keeping it cool
A 4-H or FFA kid showing an animal at the fair has to have specialized knowledge about all sorts of things — including animal sweat.
Knowing how different animals regulate their body temperature helps participants at the Umatilla County Fair keep their animals from overheating in temperatures that are expected to soar to as high as 110 degrees this week.
Daytona Tracy of Hermiston, for example, showed animals in every category of the “fur and feathers” barn, from guinea pigs to chickens. She said rabbits struggle the most in the heat, because they only have two small sweat glands in their heads and so their large, thin ears do all the work keeping them cool.
“That’s their only heat regulation,” she said.
Poultry, she said, shed heat through their wattles and combs but don’t sweat. And guinea pigs only sweat through the soles of their feet.
“I think the ones that do the best in the heat are the ducks, because they have their ponds to swim in,” she said.
Many of the rabbits in the small animal barn snuggled up next to frozen water bottles quickly melting in the heat. Tracy said cool wet towels, misting animals with a spray bottle and feeding them frozen fruit also helped.
“You usually freeze a lot ahead of time,” she said. “We had to buy a freezer just for water bottles.”
Over in the largest barn, Kove Harwood of Echo was tending to his sheep named Savage. Frozen water bottles aren’t as much help to the larger animals, but spray bottles and baths work well, he said. Keeping their drinking water cool helps too.
“It gets hot, and so I’ll take it and dump it out and refill with cool water,” he said.
The sheep are shorn as closely as possible (otherwise it’s like “one of us wearing a wool sweater,” Harwood said) and their “tubes” that keep them clean after a bath can also be wetted down for some extra cooling effect.
Pigs are tricky to keep cool because they don’t sweat and are sensitive to sunlight.
“Pigs never tan, they just burn and peel,” Hannah Walker of Hermiston said.
McNalley said she heard positive feedback about the entertainment, both from performers and from fair attendees.
Umatilla County Sgt. Josh Roberts said there were three arrests at the fair this year: one for disorderly conduct, one for a person using a fake ID, and one for a probation violation.
He said they had to trespass a few more people than last year during the evenings, but overall, it went well, and there were no major incidents or assaults.
He said during the evenings, they had at least 10 law enforcement officials on duty each night.
Umatilla County Fire District medics responded six times to the fairgrounds from Aug. 7 to 12.