Ag is still at the heart of the fair
While the Crook County Fair, like other fairs, has become known for many different things, agriculture is very much at the heart of the event.
Though people expect to see live music, numerous vendors and attractions, carnival rides and more, much of the fairgrounds are committed to the many livestock and food exhibits. People enter dozens of categories every year, hoping their food, vegetable, or animal will win the top prize.
These exhibits fill several of the buildings at the fair where people can wander around and check out the best of what Crook County residents and organizations have to offer. And the list is extensive.
The list of foods ranges from canned meats to canned fruits and vegetables. Various cheeses are entered as well as dried fruits, pickles and other garden-grown and homemade foods. Meanwhile, livestock animals include numerous breeds of cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens and rabbits.
The fair has a lengthy history and agriculture has always had a prominent place at the event. The fairgrounds were established in 1903. Originally, the venue was only a race track and some grandstands that were built on the grounds. In 1904, the first Central Oregon Fair was held and it was primarily comprised of an annual horse race and some small exhibits. In 1917, the fair name was changed to the Oregon Interstate State Fair, but in 1927, its name was changed a final time to the Crook County Fair.
The fair has enjoyed steady attendance in recent years with visitor totals hovering in the 21,000 range for the four-day event. However, last year attendance surged to nearly 29,000.
Though many fair entries come from residents in Crook County and throughout Central Oregon, the local 4-H and FFA organizations devote much of their time and energy raising to show at the Crook County Fair as well as the Oregon State Fair later this summer.
According to Crook County FFA Advisor Dan McNary, members of the local chapter were busy early this summer getting animals and other projects ready for exhibition at the fair.
He noted that this year, 17 members will be showing a total of 64 head of livestock to include market and breeding animals that represent beef and dairy cattle, sheep, swine, goats and rabbits.
Meanwhile, Crook County 4-H notes that the fair provides its members opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge and mastery in their project areas. And if they qualify at the county fair, they may be able to apply to the state fair to showcase their skills with other 4-H members across Oregon.
The organization views county fairs not only as a way to make great memories, it teaches participating members life skills such as problem solving, decision-making, project management, communications and public speaking.
The animal portion of the fair will culminate with the FFA/4H Junior Livestock Auction and the FFA Alumni Barbecue. The auction has brought in more than $400,000 in the past four years, and generated $457,511 in 2018. Both events will be held Saturday afternoon.
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