Ah, state fairs: They’re hot. They’re crowded. The food is disgusting (though sometimes also delicious—funnel cake, anyone?). But we love them anyway.
Fairs may be a bit grotesque, but they’re also endearingly all-American—and, if nothing else, they’re a spectacle. The Oregon State Fair, which takes place at the fairgrounds in Salem from August 23 to September 2, promises to be no exception. The event’s headliners include country singer Martina McBride; classic rockers REO Speedwagon (with Loverboy); and ventriloquist/celebrity impressionist Terry Fator. (These shows require separate admission.) If neither country, nor Loverboy, nor Lady Gaga impressions by a dummy, nor separate admission is your thing, not to worry: we drilled deeper into the schedule to give you eight reasons you should brave the fair.
(1) “Familyville”: It’s not just for kids! Yes, there’s a petting zoo and other baby stuff in this family-friendly area. But there’s also a “Walk on the Wild Side” exhibit that, if the fair’s promotional materials are to be believed, will feature adorable baby tigers, as well as an “Extreme Raptors” show—as if raptors weren’t extreme enough! Leave Grandma at the “Women’s Quilts During World War I” exhibit for this one.
(2) Miniature versions of animals: Because sometimes, bigger isn’t better. Actually, in the case of barnyard animals, always. Mini horses will perform alongside their larger, Budweiser-branded cousins, the draft horse, while mini Herefords will have the Beef Barn Show Ring to themselves for a “Cattle Costume Contest.” Also competing: pygmy goats, who will try to do their 4-H handlers proud on an “Agility Fun Course.”
(3) Costumed versions of animals: In addition to the aforementioned mini cows, regular-sized sheep will be “decked out in glitter and glam” for the “Bling Contest” and appear in costume with their child masters, also in costume, for the Junior Sheep Decorator Show—awww!
(4) Dog demos: There’ll be plenty of opportunities for dogs to show off to us, including something called “X-treme Air Dogs” (which we assume is like Air Bud, live), and a demonstration by the Marion County Sheriff’s Department of police dogs’ “criminal apprehension and drug detection skills.” (Leave your weed at home.) You can show off to your dog by learning how to save its life at the Willamette Valley Animal Hospital’s canine CPR demonstration.
(5) Overeating: State fairs and stuffing face go together like Twinkies and a deep fryer. The Umatilla County Cattlemen Association will be serving up tri-tip, Hermiston’s Walchli Farms will be slicing up watermelon, and the Oregon Wheat Grower’s League (tremble, celiac sufferers!) will be frying up flapjacks.
(6) Playing with your food: In no fewer than five events, food will be used not for its nutritional value, but as part of a contest. You’ve got your marionberry-pie-eating contest. You’ve got your watermelon-seed-spitting contest. You’ve got your scone-baking race (because what makes a great scone is baking it really fast). The Dairy Farmers of Oregon bring us two food face-offs: a milk-mustache contest, which sounds harmless enough, and a milk “chug-a-lug” competition, which, beginning with its name (and ending with people chugging another animal’s breast milk), sounds repulsive
(7) Culture: Get some of it at the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation Dancers’ performance, then continue cultivating yourself at the Oregon Statewide Spelling Bee.
Oregon State Fair
2330 17th St. NE, Salem
Aug 23–Sep 2
(8) It’s cheaper than the Pendleton Round-Up: Why trek all the way out to Eastern Oregon when you could take in a rodeo-style bull-riding show—titled “Bullrageous,” no less—right here in the Willamette Valley?