If you haven’t made it out to the Umatilla County Fair yet, but are planning to, be sure to allow for more time than in the past. This year’s fair is being held at the Eastern Oregon Trade & Event Center (EOTEC) for the first time and the difference between the two properties is, well, enormous.
“It’s so much bigger,” said Dawn Kelly of Hermiston. Kelly was at the fair on Tuesday with her three children. “I almost lost one of my kids a couple of different times.”
This year the fair is being held on 56 acres at EOTEC, nearly three times the size of the old fairgrounds on Orchard Avenue. The layout features more than 81,000 square feet of barn space while the old fairgrounds had just over 26,000 square feet of barn space.
“It definitely takes more time getting around the grounds,” Kelly said. “It’s really nice.”
Another major difference between the new fairgrounds and the old fairgrounds is the exhibits are primarily housed inside the EOTEC Event Center which was kept comfortably cool throughout the day and evening.
The $16 million EOTEC was years in the making and was made possible through a wide range of funding sources:
- 2011 Lottery Grant – $6.5 million
- Sale of Existing Fairgrounds – $3 million
- 2015 Lottery Grant – $1.5 million
- County Fair Improvement Fund – $400,000
- HUD Grant (Replace Thompson Hall) – $450,000
- City of Hermiston – $600,000
- Umatilla County – $600,000
- Tourism Promotion Assessment – $1 million
- Community Fundraising – $2 million
This year’s fair theme is New Faces, New Places and Old Friends. One of the “new” faces was 4-year-old Gavin Harris. He came with his mom, Debbie, who has come to the fair nearly every year for the past dozen years or so.
“Gavin can’t compare this experience to the past, but I can and it’s amazing,” Harris said. “It really is. It’s nice to go into the Event Center and look at the exhibits and cool off.”
Tuesday at the fair was capped off by the performance of headliner LoCash with Tracy Lawrence taking the stage tonight.