In January of 2017 the exhibit hall at the Baker County Fairgrounds in Halfway collapsed under the weight of a snowfall that was excessive even for a part of Baker County renowned for its snow depths.
Less than two years later the town of 290 has a new exhibit hall.
The old building stood for 90 years, almost since the annual fair started in 1921 at Halfway, about 53 miles east of Baker City. Some people thought the new exhibit hall wouldn’t be ready for this year’s fair.
Lynda and Dave Bird were not among that group.
“I was very heartbroken when I knew the old building had collapsed,” said Lynda, 77.
One thing that made replacing the building difficult was that unlike other structures that also succumbed to snow during the winter of 2016-17, the exhibit hall was not insured.
That’s not the case now — the Birds asked an insurance company to insure the new exhibit hall for $170,000.
The couple, who have been married for more than 55 years, helped raise more than $140,000 to build the new exhibit hall.
The process started in March 2017 after the snow had melted and the damage could be assessed.
The Birds then began talking to possible donors.
Over the next year or so they received numerous donations, ranging from a few dollars to more than $25,000.
The Birds themselves donated $5,000.
The campaign received more than $20,000 each from the Leo Adler Foundation and Cycle Oregon. Baker County contributed $10,000.
The Birds teamed with United Community Partners to take donations while they set up their own nonprofit. Eventually they started Friends of Pine Valley Fairground, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. In January of this year, Friends of Pine Valley Fairgrounds took over fundraising efforts from United Community Partners.
“Our goal was to have it open for this last fair, which was over Labor Day weekend, and we were able to accomplish that,” said Dave,75.
This is not the first time the Birds have been at the center of fundraising efforts in Halfway. The couple also helped raise money to replace the grandstands at the Halfway fairgrounds after they had been condemned. Before that they also helped when the fair association couldn’t pay the bill for a pavilion built in 2001.
The couple has a history of involvement in the fair and in ranching. Both are fourth-generation Hereford breeders and have families who own Century Farms (farms that have been in the same family for more than 100 years). The Birds have been showing cattle at the Halfway Fair since the 1980s.
Lynda has lived in Halfway all her life and has been going to the fair since she was a kid.
See more in the Oct. 1, 2018, issue of the Baker City Herald.