Good fair, good rodeo, good times. And good for Hermiston. This week’s events in Umatilla County’s largest city are indeed reason for residents to be proud.  The city put its best foot forward, and in return, fair-goers and rodeo fans have been treated to top-shelf events.

I now know why people in the area look forward with so much anticipation to Fair Week. There’s something for everyone, and judging from the crowds, just about everyone showed up at one time or another.

Even the weather cooperated. I’ve heard horror stories of temperatures well into the 90s that baked the event, but for the most part, the temps this week were downright pleasant.

Other notes and observations ... 

Outstanding rodeo. Great cowboys, great livestock and great people behind the scenes made the whole thing come to fruition.

These are people who care. People with passion. I’d list their names — but truth is, they don’t care about their names in the paper. They care only about putting on an event that Hermiston can be proud of and one that cowboys can appreciate.

They hit it squarely on the head again this year.

As veteran announcer Randy Corley said, “This is a rodeo.  It’s not an event with a rodeo thrown in, it’s not a social thing where people go just to tell their friends they went … it’s a rodeo. A real good rodeo.”

You won’t find many people who will argue. No frills, no spectacle, no party atmosphere with bull riding as an added attraction. From its humble beginnings 24 years ago in a ramshackle facility, it’s grown into an event boasting some of the best cowboys in the world competing on some of the best  stock available, all in a cozy, intimate environment  (no binoculars necessary). Guaranteed, plenty of the cowboys who drew applause here will be doing the same next winter in Las Vegas at NFR.

But the best part?

It’s a 100 percent, top-to-bottom volunteer effort. There are no salaried positions, no full-time “officials,” not a penny wasted on anything that doesn’t make the rodeo better. Every nickel Farm-City gets goes right back into improving the product.

That’s how it’s managed to get to where it is today.

“They have one of the hardest-working, don’t-need-recognition committees around,” Corley said.”They don’t do it for the money or the attention. They do it because they believe in this town and they believe in rodeo.”

Believe me, Hermiston is lucky have such a group.

Loved the midway — from afar. Those head-spinning, stomach-churning rides that held such an allure as a kid now make me dizzy just watching.

Bad-for-you food that tastes so good.  Yum. It’s a lucky thing fair food comes only once a year. My arteries couldn’t handle it more often.

Top-quality livestock. It was definitely interesting to see a red steer named overall grand champion, as  Patrick Linnell’s shorthorn crossbreed was named top market animal.  Angus is clearly the most popular breed these days (thanks in part to a great marketing campaign), but Linnell’s steer showed there’s still room for others at the top.

Meanwhile, Jessica Dixon of Hermiston showed the grand champion market hog, a Hampshire-Yorkshire cross. My take: a good-looking pig that will make a BLT somewhere very happy. 

Best food (my vote). Taco baked potato from the Hermiston Christian School booth. Not too bad for you and tasty to boot.

Longest line. The queue of folks waiting for Elephant Ears stretched halfway around the block. When I asked what this magic product consisted of, the lady behind the counter was quite frank: “Fried dough with lots of cinnamon, sugar and butter.” Did I mention my arteries?

Best raffle. Chances for the quilt from “Project Linus” in Auntyº Ida’s booth. The project helps provide quilts for kids in crisis. Or, as they say, “Providing security through blankets.” Great idea.

Metal Mulisha. Two questions here: What convinces someone that doing backflips on a motorcycle flying through the air is a good idea? And, how does one practice such a trick and live to tell about it?

Deep-fried Coca-Cola. Just writing it is fun.

Mutton bustin’. Always, always fun to watch. You just know some of those kids will be back in the  arena 15 or 20 years from now, competing for the big money.

Music. Lonestar played to rave reviews on Tuesday, Bowling for Soup was a smash on Wednesday and the Battle of the Bands is a great idea. Fair organizers promised outstanding entertainment, and they delivered.

Palm reading for $10 and crystal ball for $20. I don’t need a crystal ball to tell me there’s  a diet in my future.

Vendors. From sunglasses to camo suits, balloons to ballcaps, ORVs to oh-my-gosh can you believe someone would actually buy that, you could find it at the fair if you looked hard enough. Granted, some of the things I can’t imagine looking for … but they were there. Trust me.

Fair folks. Everywhere you looked, people ready to lend a hand. Helpful, polite and friendly — just what a fair should be.

Cook’s Racing Pigs. I just wanted to see the jockeys.

4-H exhibits. Beautiful clothes, art, flower arrangements and photography (just to name a few). There are some terrifically talented youngsters (and oldsters) out there.

But most of all, good people. Our congratulations and thanks to each and every contestant, each and every volunteer and each and every organizer.

You made for a wonderful week — and from what I could tell, everyone enjoyed it. Outstanding job.

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