Fairgoers and rodeo fans look forward to the return of the Deschutes County Fair and Rodeo this year, July 28 – Aug. 1. This year's theme is "Back in the Saddle Again," taken from the lyrics of Gene Autrey's hit song, "I'm back in the saddle again, out where a friend is a friend..." A perfect segue after last year.
"We've had to make some adjustments to our programs and layout to make for a safe environment for our community to come and enjoy what they love to celebrate at the annual county fair and rodeo," said Geoff Hinds, Deschutes County Fair and Expo manager.
On the exhibitor and contest side, there will be the traditional Open Class competitions for county residents featuring many categories including fine arts, food preservation, baked goods, floral arrangements, fiber arts and more.
4-H students will also showcase their projects and animals.
"The fair experience is so much more than showing their animal and that friendly and fun competition," said Candi Bothum, Deschutes County 4-H educator. "Being with friends, people with similar interests, spending time with their animals, being part of something bigger than themselves, working with adult and youth partners of all ages, learning coping skills, work ethic, leadership, teamwork and so much more.... the whole experience is really the draw and what makes this truly a youth development experience, not just an animal exhibition experience."
Over 80 FFA—short for Future Farmers of America—students will be exhibiting. FFA isn't just about raising livestock or poultry. It also includes other projects that could include woodworking or welding, photography, gardening and other aspects associated with an agricultural career.
"These students are like small business owners," said Jeff Papke, FFA advisor for the Bend chapter. "They've had to raise and care for an animal for several weeks or months to have that animal ready to go at a certain point in time to be shown and evaluated by industry experts with market criteria." Some of the animals will be auctioned off at the end of the fair.
Staying in the saddleWednesday through Saturday, starting at 6:30 pm, the chutes open for the Northwest Pro Rodeo Association's competition featuring bareback and saddle bronc riding, bull riding, team roping, barrel racing, steer wrestling and more. When the stock like Road Rash or Widow Maker get the upper hoof, then it's time to send rodeo clown Joey "Hashbrown" Hackett to calm the critters. The rodeo is free with fair admission, and after the dust settles, dance bands will perform at Chute #9 on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Tickets to rideDavis Shows Northwest will be back with over 35 carnival rides and attractions spread between the main carnival area and Familyville, where family-friendly rides and activities are designed more for younger children. All-day carnival wristbands are available on-line for $32 and tickets for individual rides will be available at the fairgrounds.
Throughout the fair, there will be various indoor and outdoor acts providing entertainment and educational activities such as Brad's World of Reptiles. The Haia Shark Encounter will feature live animals.
Local favorite J.D. Platt's K9 Flying Dog Show features various breeds of dogs snatching flying discs out of the air with acrobatic moves that would make any NFL wide receiver envious. Music, comedy, and of course, high-flying dogs will steal the show!
Speaking of faves, Washington- based Justin James and his daughter Sarrafina return this year with their comedy hypnotism show that stars the audience as the performers. When Sarrafina was five and tired of just hanging around, James asked her to come up on the stage at the Ellensburg County Fair.
"I told her what I wanted her to do and she was an absolute hit," said James. Now nine years old, Sarrafina is a seasoned performer. "Anybody can be hypnotized as long as they are willing to follow directions," said James.
"We've got a mix of history and tradition but also some new things that have never been at the fair before," added Hinds. "The fair is a celebration of the community and an opportunity for our future generation and leaders to showcase products and projects they've worked on for many months and the opportunity for the community to showcase what they've been working on over the past couple of years."
No small feat, but it's nice to see the Fair & Rodeo back in the saddle again.