If you only have a day to spend at the fair, it’ll be tough to fit everything in. But there are a mix of old favorites and new attractions this year, which will keep you busy for an hour, or an entire, hot summer day.
Before the heat spikes, check out some of the new exhibits, like the “Museum of Curious Things.” Housed in a small trailer, the exhibit features many oddities — from taxidermied animals with deformities, or artifacts from various myths and conspiracies.
“It’s a slice of Americana,” said museum owner Matt Baker. “Historical oddities. We encourage people to come in and check it out for themselves.”
In the morning, visit the animal barns to see local youths showing off their hard work. This year they are showing dairy cows again after a long hiatus.
“Usually we have one head, and this year we have about nine,” said Isel Tejeda Urenda, an incoming senior at Hermiston High School.
Missy White, the dairy superintendent, said the kids who had raised dairy cows aged out, and interest in the category waned for a while.
Tejeda Urenda said they have been helped by a local business, Meenderinck Dairy, which has put on clinics for kids to learn how to groom and take care of dairy cows.
Many of the food vendors from last year have returned, from those selling sodas and elephant ears, to Piggly’s, which serves whole turkey legs and other barbecued meats.
A new food vendor is selling “Dragon’s Breath,” corn puffs frozen in liquid nitrogen which make vapor come out of the person’s mouth and nose as they eat.
During the hottest part of the day, escape the heat by heading inside to the air-conditioned event center building. 4-H projects including flower arrangements, produce, quilts and baked goods are on display throughout the building, and commercial vendors have also set up shop.
In the evening, stop by the Walk on the Wild Side animal show — possibly the only chance to see a live tiger in Umatilla County all year. Steve Higgs, owner of the show, said he has been rescuing exotic animals from around the U.S. for 25 years, and brings a few of them to county fairs each year.
Other than the big cats, Higgs said popular animals include the Canadian lynx and the binturong, a large animal in the civet family, also known as a bearcat.
Higgs also brought camels and is offering rides in a ring on the fairgrounds.
On the opposite side of the fairgrounds, Chris Biro will give fairgoers a look at a different type of exotic animal, with his “Pirate’s Parrot Show.” The show features a range of birds, which interact with the crowd, including taking a dollar from an audience member’s hand and dropping it into a jar.
In the carnival area, new rides and games will be available this year, including a zip-line and knockerball, which puts people in giant plastic bubbles. The carnival opens at 2 p.m. every day.
Fair board member Lucas Wagner encouraged people to stay for the musical acts in the evening, which include several country artists, Latino bands, and the bands Skid Row and Blues Traveler.
He cautioned people to be careful in the heat.
“Come on out, but stay safe,” he said.
Admission to the fair is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, and $6 for children ages 6 to 12. The fair opens at 9 a.m. every day. Mid Columbia Bus Company will start operating free shuttle buses at 4 p.m. and run to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Shuttle pickup spots are at the Hermiston Community Center (415 S. Hwy. 395), Hermiston City Hall (180 NE Second St.), Wal Mart (1350 NE First St.), and Hermiston High School (600 S. First St.). On Friday and Saturday, Kayak Public Transit will handle pickups and drop-offs from city hall on Friday and Saturday, but with a break from 8 to 9 p.m. The Kayak bus is wheelchair-accessible but the Mid-Co buses are not.
If people chose to drive instead, they are asked to have the $5 for parking ready when they drive up to the window. General admission attendees need to be in the left lane entering the fairgrounds, prepaid parking passes go to the center lane, and rodeo and handicapped parking traffic need to stay in the right lane.
The Umatilla Cab Company is offering a special throughout fair week. They will drop a group of up to four people, all picked up at the same location, at the fairgrounds for $8.