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County fair kicks off this week in Hillsboro

'Maker Fair,' dog show join festivities, but demolition derby, tractor pull missing

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTOS: DOUG BURKHARDT - It wont be long now -- preparations are under way to spruce up the fairgrounds and get all the rides and booths set up for this years Washington County Fair, which kicks off Thursday at 10 a.m.The annual Washington County Fair is back this week for another season of “Big Fair Fun.” This year’s festivities get started on Thursday and conclude Sunday.

Lisa DuPre, marketing and events coordinator for the Washington County Fair Complex, said there are some new activities planned.

“As far as attractions go this year, the 4-H program has a very innovative ‘Maker Fair’ that will be happening every day in the Main Exhibit Hall-South. It’s a new approach to hands-on STEM education.”

DuPre said it is impressive to see the 4-H program in Washington County branching into the high-tech industry, given how many youngsters have parents who work in that industry.

“It’s a great example of how 4-H is remaking itself to fit changes in the community and keep kids interested in the program,” she said.

DuPre pointed out that the history of the fairgrounds goes back about 160 years, noting that the first Washington County Fair in Oregon was held Oct. 5, 1854.

According to DuPre, the fair was discontinued after several years, but then was revived in 1868 and held in Forest Grove. There were more changes after that, including a later redevelopment as the “Banks Hog and Dairy Show.”

The Hillsboro fair goes back almost a century.

“Records also show at some points the fair was held on Main Street in Hillsboro and on the Washington County Courthouse lawn,” DuPre added.”Finally, in 1925, it was reorganized again and it has continued since that point in time.”

In another change, the fairgrounds will have an interesting new food booth this year: Hog Daddy’s Barbecue.

“Hog Daddy’s Barbecue is going all-out with the bacon craze that seems to be everywhere these days,” said DuPre. “The owner of the booth, Brian Bradbury, is great to talk to and grew up in the fair industry, and is one of these guys who dreams up the crazy ‘fair food’ creations.”

Despite the new events planned, some fair-goers have expressed dismay to hear that the arena and the activities that took place there — the draft horse show, the demolition derby and tractor pulls — is closed for 2015.

“It’s correct that there will be no motor sports events going on in the arena this year,” DuPre said. “While attendance has been increasing each year at the fair, the attendance of the motor sports shows has been steadily going down, yet the cost to produce the shows has been increasing. For the past few years, we have lost money on the shows, (but) it was a difficult decision for us to make to no longer hold these events.”

On the plus side, however, DuPre said the fairgrounds will bring in a new animal act this year.

“We haven’t had an attraction featuring dogs in a few years, but they are so popular that we are bringing in one we suspect will be a big hit,” she explained. “It’s called ‘The Canine Stars,’ and they do a little of everything.”

In addition, for those who love gardening, the Oregon State University Extension Service and the OSU Extension Washington County Master Gardener Association will also bring some new programs to this year’s fair.

On all four days of the fair, master gardeners will staff the demonstration gardens, planting flowers, vegetables, fruit trees, berries, herbs and more. From 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day, master gardeners will share their expertise. Children’s gardening activities will include a scavenger hunt with prizes and a carrot pull.

Admission to the fair is free for all ages.

Organizers of the annual fair are encouraging visitors to consider alternative modes of transportation in getting to this year’s fair, with a free shuttle bus taking passengers from the MAX light rail station to the fair’s entrance gate.

Further, with the fair complex in an ongoing effort to be seen as “the most bike-friendly fair in the United States,” those riding bikes to the fair can park their bikes in a secure area near the front gate.