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Fair board sure there will be a fair
By MIKE FERGUSON
Of the Baker City Herald
New Baker County Fair Manager Laurie Bean says there will be fair in Baker City July 31 through Aug. 3 it just might have a different look than fair-goers are used to.
Planned construction of the armory and law enforcement training center has already rendered the community center useless for this year's fair. Half was torn down, and the other half is slated to be moved but after this year's fair is over.
In past years, the community center has housed open class exhibits.
The show barns and livestock barn have also been torn down. In their place the fair board has contracted to erect three metal buildings.
Anticipated completion date for those is Aug. 1, said fair board member Rob Ellingson, adding that the fair board will do what it can to hurry construction along.
"The plans are done and the buildings have been ordered," he said. "I think (finishing in time for the fair) is doable."
The new show barn, which will be 90 by 120 feet, will be fully enclosed, complete with restrooms and concession stand.
That building will go up first, Ellingson said, with construction scheduled to begin July 1.
Two metal livestock barns will be 48 by 160 feet. Those won't be enclosed, except on the west side.
The fall-back plan in case the metal buildings don't go up as scheduled involves use of three rented 60-by-90 tents, "much like you'd see in a tent revival," Ellingson said.
"It's going to be a different kind of fair this year," said fair board member Dean Defrees. "We think it will be better. We're real excited about getting the new facilities."
The down side for this year's fair, he said, is that lack of space will limit the number of open-class exhibits. Most of those exhibitors will have to squeeze into the old armory building.
Landscaping that's planned for the show barn and livestock barn area also won't be completed until next year's fair, he said.
Even with all the uncertainty, Bean's unenviable task is to coordinate the whole show in just 15 to 20 hours per week of paid time.
Bean has been on the job since the last week in April.
"There's a lot more involved in this job than I thought there was," she said from her office in the Extension building. "I've got a lot of respect for anyone who's ever put on a successful fair. It's a lot of work.
"And it seems like everything comes down to the last minute."
So far, Bean says, she's been working to line up enough vendors, contacting businesses and organizations for sponsorships, lining up the dozens of volunteers needed and figuring out which activities and contests can be staged each day.
Some of those events will build on contests that Bonnie White implemented last year.
"She did such a good job," Bean said.
Some leftovers from the White era will include milk-drinking and watermelon seed-spitting contests, tractor pedaling races, and the "cutest chick" contest.
New ideas Bean is kicking around include a "fair mutt show," a chance for local dogs to shine. One contest idea, she said, is which dog can wag its tail the most times in a minute.
Or she may decide on a "pet/people look-alike contest." That contest is pretty self-explanatory: the entrant who looks most like his or her pet wins.
Building on the theme of patriotism following the September 11 attacks, this year's them is "Red, White and Blue: This Fair's for You."
For Bean, fair season is in her blood. She said she loved 4-H activities while growing up in Emmett, Idaho.
"Fair was always the highlight of my summer," she said. "It was a chance to show off all your hard work. In 4-H you learn discipline and how to take care of animals.
"I hope that through the fair kids can learn to be good sports, and how to win and lose graciously."
Bean said that she's had to line up several new superintendents this year, but three more are needed. She can be reached at 523-7881 for those who'd like to volunteer.
Ribbons have been ordered, and the fair book goes to press this week. The fair will go on despite uncertainties regarding facilities and other variables, including vendors, she said.
"People tell me that it's chaos (in the days and weeks leading up to the fair), but when the day arrives it runs pretty smoothly," she said.
"When the fair finally does come," she said, "that'll be the big payoff."