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Pandemic claims another victim as board votes to shutter state's oldest fair

YAMHILL COUNTY — The state's oldest county fair has been canceled this summer.

The Yamhill County Fair Board announced May 14 that the annual event, once scheduled for July 29 through Aug. 1, would join the thousands of other events across the state to succumb to the COVID-19 pandemic.NEWBERG GRAPHIC FILE PHOTO - The Yamhill County Fair Board announced in May that the annual event, the state's oldest, was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It is with great sadness that after our fair board meeting … we have to officially announce the cancellation of our 2020 Yamhill County Fair," the organization said in a news release. "We had to do this in order to comply with Gov. Brown's mandate of no mass gatherings until at least the end of September."

Cancellation of the annual rite of summer in Yamhill County is a rare event indeed. Since starting in 1854 the fair has only been canceled twice before: in 1918 during the influenza epidemic that killed tens of millions of people worldwide, and from 1943 to 1945 during World War II.

"The health and safety of fairgoers, exhibitors, competitors, performers, vendors, contractors, volunteers and staff is the top priority of the Yamhill County Fair," said Lacey Carroll, the fair's office manager, in a news release. "We know in looking out for these things we are also breaking many young hearts that have worked on their 4-H and FFA projects the past year. Our YCF&R staff and board members grieve this loss with you and don't take lightly the impact this decision has made on our fair families."

Carroll said the board and organizers will now concentrate on the 2021 fair, scheduled for Aug. 4-7.

"We are hopeful for what is next," she said. "The fair board is currently focused on details to be able to reopen the facility to shows/events in the near future and welcome fairgoers next year. …"

In 2019, the fair and attendant activities attracted about 40,000 people, Carroll said, adding, "We pre-sell tickets for the concerts and have guests from all over the state of Oregon and some surrounding states. We get calls asking about our entertainment and many people plan their summer vacations around our fair as they love the attractions we provide."

Carroll said gauging the economic impact on the fair's cancellation is difficult, but pointed to an analysis by an Oregon State University economist that determined that the fair attracted $3 million to $4 million each year, including $420,000 in youth auctions and fair sales of roughly $285,600.

"Many of the guests that come stay in local hotels, B&Bs and Airbnbs as well as eat out, buy gas and shop while in the area," she said. "All of these numbers do not include the loss to all of the vendors that do business at the fair; the carnival company is based in Molalla, all of the rodeo stock contractors and cowboys come to compete. We average at least 4,000 people at our rodeo and demolition derby each night."

Carroll said some accommodation may be made for 4-H and FFA youths that normally would be competing in a variety of categories at the fair.

"There are no firm plans yet," she said. "In other parts of the country, the 4-H and FFA youth livestock auctions have been held in a couple of different ways; there have been drive-thru as well as virtual auctions. The committee is working with the leaders of 4-H and FFA to formulate a plan."

For more information, email Carroll at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call her at 503-434-7524.

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