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New attractions, old faves await in Salem Aug. 23-Sept. 2; the fairs hopes a lot of people from the Portland area attend

COURTESY: OREGON STATE FAIR - The 154th Oregon State Fair in Salem features many new events, including timber/logging competitions, demolition derby and rodeos. Dan Cox, fair spokesman, says the fair needs to continue to evolve in a competitive market.Agriculture remains at the root of the Oregon State Fair, and those roots go deep considering it'll be the 154th edition of the statewide gathering Aug. 23-Sept. 2 in Salem.

Some 5,000 animals will be on the grounds at the fairgrounds at any given time — cows, sheep, goats, pigs, rabbits, horses and more. Fair spokesman Dan Cox said animal exhibits are a great place for people from all across the state to meet.

"This is a setting where somebody who lives in the suburbs or downtown can have a conversation with someone who has no streetlights," he said. "That overlap and conversation is still what it's about."

That said, the Oregon State Fair continues to evolve and expand, and this year won't be any different. New to the fair, there'll be sea lions, sawdust, monster trucks, demolition derby, Mexican bull riding and The Belt Buckle Battle (rodeo).

There'll also be a stellar music lineup, beginning with country stars Dustin Lynch on opening day, Friday, Aug. 23.

While most of the fairgoers are from Salem and Marion County, a fair share come from the Portland area, Cox said. One study estimated about 30 percent.

"There's a lot of competition for the entertainment dollar," he said. "There are 30 outdoor music venues in our marketing area." Not to mention, Labor Day weekend includes auto racing (at Portland International Raceway), golf (at Columbia Edgewater Country Club) and college football (this year at Oregon State), and, of course, people go camping on the weekend before school starts.

Still, "Labor Day is a monster weekend for us," Cox said. "You get a lot for your money."

Looking at what's new:

• Sea Lion Encounters — The marine mammals are making their state fair debut as entertainers from a marine conservation outreach program. They'll do handstands, ball balancing and leaps for 11 days during the fair.

"They're rescued sea lions," Cox said. "It's educational and inspirational."

• The Wonderful World of Sawdust — Wood carving, log rolling, springboard chopping and axe throwing are some of the competitions to honor the legacy of lumberjacks and "they all involve sawdust ... the logging and timber industry is still a big deal," Cox said. It happens daily in the fair's garden area, and evening brings a barbecue, Oregon craft brews, storytelling and s'mores.

• The Belt Buckle Battle — At 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24, in the fair pavilion, it features four teams of four rodeo pros — three cowboys, one cowgirl, with one bareback rider, one saddle bronc rider, one bull rider and one barrel racer per team. Team colors (red, blue, yellow, green) are reflected by fans.

• Jaripeo Espectacular — At 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25, in the pavilion, it's Mexican bull riding, accompanying Dia de Familia events at the fair. A typical American rodeo has bull riding that lasts eight seconds; in the Jaripeo Espectacular, riders hang on until thrown off or the bull takes a break.

• Monster Trucks Northwest Championships — The fair's pavilion hosts the competition, 2 p.m. Aug. 31 and Sept. 1. It will feature Bounty Hunter, Playing For Keeps, Enforcer and the Scarlett Bandit.

• Demolition Derby Championship — It's a classic crash-and-bang extravaganza, 12:30 p.m. Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 2.

Advanced sales for concerts have been strong, Cox said, which might limit the number of free seats with paid fair admission available on first-come/first-serve basis.

The concert lineup: Dustin Lynch (Aug. 23), 3 Doors Down (Aug. 24), REO Speedwagon (Aug. 26), Steve Miller Band and Marty Stuart (Aug. 27), Brett Young (Aug. 28), Newsboys and Adam Agee (Aug. 29), The Commodores (Aug. 30), The Beach Boys (Aug. 31), Firefall and Pure Prairie League and Poco (Sept. 2).

Fan favorite fair attractions include Dog Town, Artisans Village, All-Alaskan Pig Racing, ST[+r]EAM Competition, Gerry Frank Chocolate Layer Cake Contest (the 60th anniversary) and Heroes Day on Sept. 2.

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