When Oregon lifted COVID-19 restrictions on June 30, Rachel Bivens — and other staff behind the Lane County Fair — were overjoyed. They had planned for a number of different iterations of the event, depending on current COVID-19 guidelines, says Bivens, the marketing manager and assistant fair manager. The latest involved limited attendance, concert seating and eating areas and the logistical complications of tracking the number of fairgoers.
“We were thrilled when the restrictions were released, because it gave us the opportunity to provide a full fair as we normally would, with all the energy and excitement of a normal year,” Bivens says.
Planning the fair is a year-long process, she says. Before the pandemic hit, staff were working toward the July 2020 fair, which was canceled in May of that year. “We had a lot of pieces in place,” she says, and many of the performers and vendors booked for 2020 simply postponed their involvement until 2021.
Other participants, like some food vendors and community stage performers, were booked in the past few months. “Once the guidelines started to change earlier this year, we started seeing a lot more phone calls and doing more outreach and just kind of picking up where we left off,” Bivens says.
Every year, the fair books bands to play the fair’s nightly concerts, generally based on bands’ availability, the event budget and Lane County’s demographics and interests, Bivens says. This year, organizers booked the popular rapper Nelly, known for his songs “Hot in Here” and “Country Grammar,” because “We felt like it was something that market hadn’t seen in a while, and we thought it’d be really fun and interesting,” she says.
While Nelly tickets have sold out, performances from other bands, like country duo Big & Rich, classic rock band Jefferson Starship and country singer-songwriter Carly Pearce, still have available tickets.
Outside of music concerts and carnival rides, the fair’s attractions include Canine Stars’ dog shows, All Alaskan Racing Pigs, performances by community members and magic shows, according to the fair’s website. For kids, there are pedal-based small tractors to ride, juggling and giant bubble stations, a toddler zone and interactive performances geared toward children. The fair also hosts livestock as well as creative exhibits that community members can participate in.
Food vendors include Lane County Fair classics like Bubba’s BBQ, Great Philly Steak and Hawaiian Teriyaki, according to the site. There are also dessert vendors serving traditional elephant ears and other fried pastries, ice cream and more, as well as drink options ranging from various lemonade flavors to aguas frescas and fruit cocktails. New vendors this year include Pineapple Tree, which serves hot and iced coffee and tea, Wood Fire Pizza, Curbside Cookie and The Wurst Food Truck, which specializes in German dishes like bratwurst and weisswurst.
Bivens says the fair is a unique event for the community because it has something for everyone.
“So often there are places that we go where it’s really only entertaining for the kids of one of the parents, and this is just family fun for everyone,” she says. “You can come with your entire family, from little kids all the way up to grandma and grandpa, aunts, uncles, cousins.
She adds, “The lights and vibrancy of the music and the carnival — they’re just appealing, just sort of pure summer fun.”
The Lane County Fair runs through July 25 at the fairgrounds, 13th Avenue and Jefferson Street. Daily admission is $9 for adults, with discounts for children, military personnel and seniors. For more info see AtTheFair.com.