The Columbia County Fair and Rodeo, a rich, long-established local tradition that was canceled last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is scheduled to be held in mid July.
The seven member Columbia County fair board has approved restarting the popular event based on pandemic state and local health and safety requirements at the time of the event, July 12-18.
Columbia County Fair Board President Jamie Carr said this summers event will be longer than what has been held in the past in an effort to offer the public as much of the events as possible and still closely follow social distancing requirements.
Work in progress
Carr said the current plans for the fair and rodeo are subject to change.
“Right now we planing to have a fair and we are working with vendors, businesses and entertainment,” he said. “It’s not all 100 percent planned. We have lost a few vendors and the events will be based on COVID restrictions in July.”
Carr said he is hopeful fair-goers will see different entertainers, a performing stage, live music, 4H events and the other typical offerings found at the popular summertime venue.
“It will be much like normal but we will have social distancing protocols,” Carr said. “Due to COVID restrictions, the more square footage that can be separated into areas means more people can attend. It isn’t what we we want to do but it is what we have to plan due to the pandemic. We are optimistic that the pandemic restrictions will be a lot looser and more people will be allowed by July, but we are planning a fair with extra social gathering restrictions.”
According to Carr, admission prices will be the same as 2020, which will include entrance to the rodeo and the on-stage music entertainment.
Carr said fairgrounds renovations, such as gutters for the event buildings and a new roof for the fairgrounds office will depend on funding. The fair board is working with the Columbia County Board of Commissioners to see if grants or other money is available to fund the projects.
The fair board faced a $37,000 debt following efforts to house victims and livestock at the county facility on Saulser Road following Oregon wildfires in late August and September. During that project, the fair supported 40 wildfire evacuees and cared for more than 400 animals. In late February, the fair board held a community drive-through dinner and virtual auction to help raise money to clear the debt. Carr said that event brought in approximately $5,000.
Another such drive-through fundraiser with limited in-person dining, a spaghetti feed, is scheduled from 3 to 6 p.m. March 13, at the fair pavilion.
“If we put on a few more of these dinners, we could pay off the debt,” Carr said. “That is what we are working toward.”
Carr said the popular family egg hunt held each Easter at the fairgrounds, also cancelled last spring due to the pandemic, is planned as a drive through event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 3.
According to Carr, cancelling the traditional fair and rodeo and the numerous rental projects held at the facility cut deep into the fair budget and clearing the wildfire lodging project is still a current challenge.
“Due to COVID, we had no way due to bring in additional money to pay down the debt,” he said. “We could have done some of those smaller events and still met the COVID guidelines but we had a lot of nervous people that thought it would look bad if something had happened. We cancelled so that we would be able to work well with the county.”
Carr said now that the pandemic restrictions are easing, many people want to get out and about and begin enjoying events, such as the fair and rodeo again.
“If we can find a way to make things happen and be respectful to those that want to do things again, but still be respectful to
those that are cautious by following the pandemic health and safety guidelines, we are trying to meet the needs of everyone and still put on a safe and successful event,” he said.
Carr said the Columbia Fair and Rodeo is a tradition that helps sustain the local economy and one that should never fade away.
“For me a fair just doesn’t represent watching a rodeo and getting an elephant ear,” he said. It’s the full meal deal. You are supporting local businesses, allowing them the opportunity to interact with the public, and we are giving the community a local event and a place to gather. We are creating jobs and we are building relations.”
For more information about the drive-through dinners, the mEGGa Egg Hunt and the Columbia County Fair and Rodeo, visit columbiacountyfairgrounds.com, or call the fair office, at 503-397-4231.