The resurgence of the Union County Fair is continuing.
Attendance at last week’s four-day fair was higher than a year ago, when it was about 14,000. This marked the third straight year fair attendance has been up.
“We were up each day (from a year ago) by a lot,” said Margaret Spence, manager of the Union County Fair.
Final figures are not yet available, but Spence said that attendance was highest on Friday. She credits Friday’s strong turnout to the evening concert of Portland rhythm and blues musician Curtis Salgado.
“He was a big draw,” Spence said.
On Saturday, everyone age 17 and younger got in free, which boosted attendance. The free entry was made possible by sponsors, and Spence hopes it will be possible to do this again in 2020.
Good weather throughout the fair, which ran from July 31 through Aug. 3, also helped attendance.
“It was nice and warm but not too hot,” said Amy Horn, president of the Union County Fair Board and an Observer employee.
Air quality was good, without smoke from regional fires blowing in.
“(Smoke) has been an issue in the past,” Horn said.
Years in which wildfire smoke caused a problem at the fair include 2015. Smoke that year from the Eagle Creek Fire in the Elgin area blew in, Horn said.
This year’s fair was also boosted by new events and activities, including horseback riding and team branding.
The horseback riding was provided by Victory Acres Riding Academy of La Grande. Fairgoers rode horses led by Victory Acres staff members. This provided an opportunity to ride a horse for many children who do not get to do so regularly, Horn said.
Horse riding was offered on Thursday and Friday, and the station where it was conducted was busy throughout, Spence said.
In the team branding event, groups competed to see who could most quickly brand cattle. The event was conducted Friday and involved cold branding, a technique in which liquid nitrogen or dry ice and alcohol are used. Horn said team branding was so popular among contestants and spectators that she’d like to have it again at the 2020 fair.
The Union County Fair Board will soon begin making plans for the 2020 fair. The board currently has two openings, and Horn hopes the preparations for next year’s fair can be done with a full board. She noted, though, that one does not have to be on the board to reach out to the fair.
“We are always looking for volunteers and people who are interested in helping,” Horn said.