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Fair board launches calendar battle

Having the Washington County Fair and the Oregon International Air Show (OIAS) scheduled for the same July weekend earlier this year brought howls of protest from some quarters.

Given that the two events were literally across the street from each other, the timing was widely questioned. The county fair brings in approximately 100,000 people each year, while the air show attracts about 60,000 to the Hillsboro Airport — right across Cornell Road from the fairgrounds.

The scheduling conflict offered the potential for congestion and confusion, and some citizens were irate.

“Who made the decision to double-schedule such big events?” questioned Hillsboro resident Carrie Abernathey. “Not a smart move.”

Although no significant troubles were reported during the competing schedules this year, the Washington County Fair Board made it clear it does not want to tempt fate for a second time in 2014. On Sept. 4, members unanimously approved a resolution formally requesting that, in the future, the OIAS avoid scheduling the air show during the last week of July.

“The Washington County Fair Board requests that, in the spirit of cooperation, the Oregon International Air Show organizers not schedule the Oregon International Air Show on the weekend of the last Friday in July so that the air show does not conflict with the Washington County Fair,” read an excerpt.

The fair board’s resolution specified that, for the past 14 years, the Washington County Fair has been held “on the week of the last Friday in July,” and stated that having two heavily-attended events on the same weekend “creates unnecessary conflict and problems including noise, logistics, media confusion, traffic congestion and parking problems, and causes unnecessary division in the community amongst supporters of each event.”

The resolution further pointed to the fact that a number of animal exhibitions, as well as some horse exhibits, could not go forward last summer due to the impacts of aircraft noise on animals.

Leah Perkins-Hagele, manager of the Washington County Fair Complex, said she hoped the air show’s organizers would respect the resolution.

“I don’t know what impact it will have on them. I will get in touch with them and see if I can meet with them,” said Perkins-Hagele. “The resolution is not intended to be adversarial. It’s just communication so they know our position. We like the air show, and we hope to work together with them in the future. But having them there on the same date (as the annual county fair) causes a problem.”

Judy Willey, president of the Oregon International Air Show, pointed out that air show organizers did not deliberately schedule the air show for the same weekend as the Washington County Fair.

She explained that in 2013, the air show happened to be on the same weekend because of scheduling issues.

“Because Oregon Air Show fans love the military jet teams, we have applied again for both the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds in 2014 and have listed two weekends in mid-August as our preferred dates,” explained Willey. “We have never listed the fair weekend as one of our preferred dates. Unfortunately, however, our requested dates do not always work for the military jet team schedules. Last fall, we did everything we could to move off the fair weekend and still keep the Blue Angels; however, we could not get the date changed as it was the only weekend that would work in the Blue Angels’ West Coast schedule.”

Ironically, after agreeing to move the air show to the same weekend as the county fair to accommodate the popular Blue Angels, the precision jet team ultimately canceled its appearance due to federal budget cutbacks. By that point, it was too late to move the air show to another weekend.

Willey said she believed the resolution was unnecessary.

“We have worked hard to develop a positive partnership with the fair management overall,” said Willey. “We do understand the complications it creates on both sides and will once again work hard to avoid this conflict as we have done over the past 25 years.

“The air show is a strong community supporter and continually works hard to be a good neighbor to the county, community neighbors and the tenants at the airport. It is important to note that hosting a military jet team is important to the success of the air show.”

Andy Duyck, chairman of the fair board, acknowledged that the air show’s organizers are under no obligation to heed the fair board’s wishes regarding scheduling.

“The resolution is simply a request, and it accurately states the reasons that we passed it,” Duyck said. “We respect that ultimately the air show chooses its own dates.”

Willey said she would know more about the dates for the 2014 air show by the end of the year.

“The jet team schedules are announced at a national convention in early December in Las Vegas,” she explained. “Once those schedules are out, we are able to make our announcement. Although we cannot guarantee anything at this time, our goal is to see a military jet team in Hillsboro in 2014 and not have the date conflict with the Washington County Fair.”



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