A Fair to Remember

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Written by Tyler Francke, Contributing Writer

A colorful fair boardwalk

Nothing beats summertime in Clackamas County, and no summer would be complete without a visit to the one and only Clackamas County Fair and Rodeo this August at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds in Canby.

Only there can you find everything a county fair was meant to be: from the livestock and agricultural displays, where the farmers and youngsters who toil all year to work the land and feed our country showcase the fruits of their labor, to the pulse-pounding carnival rides, the unmatched thrill of man against nature in the Canby Rodeo, or the inspired performances of musicians and entertainers playing for their favorite hometown crowd.

Rodeo Coybows on horses chase a cow

As Clackamas County Fairgrounds and Event Center Executive Director Brian Crow loves to say, he’s not in the entertainment or even the event business: he’s in the business of making generational memories.

“You know, I clearly recall going to the fair with my parents, and my mom forcing me to go on the Sky Diver with her,” Brian says with a laugh. “I don’t like that stuff, but she had a blast. My mom’s in her 80s now, and we can’t do that anymore, but we have those memories for a lifetime.”

“So that’s really what we’re doing here, creating an environment where people can come and make those generational memories, connect with their community and have a greater understanding of the importance of agriculture and where our food comes from.”

To Brian, bridging the urban-rural divide is not only a critical component of the mission of county fairs — it’s really something that tends to happen only at the county fair.

“Because it’s really only at the county fair where most people who are not farmers have the chance to come and see firsthand the work that is put into raising that meat or produce that they buy at the grocery store,” Brian says. “And not only that, they get to meet the farmers and the families that do that work. A big part of why I do this is because I understand how important that is, and I want the urban and rural parts of our community to get together and understand each other.”

A colorful fair corndog

After a record-breaking fair and rodeo season in 2022, Brian and his team are primed and ready to unfurl yet another show-stopping event. Since coming on board last year, Brian says he has been careful not to make any big changes, but rather focus on improving and expanding certain elements with the goal of adding to the overall guest experience for fairgoers.

Last year’s addition of a rodeo after-party on Friday and Saturday nights proved extremely popular, so this year’s fair will feature it as a follow-up to every night of world-class rodeo action in the Canby Rodeo Arena.

The fair has also added a number of the finest strolling and stage entertainment acts around, including Washboard Willie, Hillia the Hula Hoop Extraordinaire, the Wandering Outlaws, Rock & Roll Cowboys, and the Jessie Leigh Band.

Longtime attendees may note some slight changes to the event’s layout this year, particularly around the food vendors and rodeo grounds, made to streamline the flow and reduce congestion.

A child enjoys a whirling carnival ride

This year’s fair will also lean into its reputation as a showcase for local creatives and masters of the hobby arts like never before, including featuring a new art competition between Clackamas County elementary school students, with the winning schools taking home cash prizes in support of their art programs.

Kicking off with the delightful Canby Kiwanis Kiddie Caper Parade at 10 a.m. Tuesday, August 15, each day of the fair will feature a different theme, with associated discounts or free admission to select groups. The first day is Family Day, with kids 12 and under getting free tickets with their participation in the Kiddie Caper Parade.

Wednesday is Senior Citizen Day, followed by First Responders Day, Military Appreciation Day and culminating with Agriculture Day, which will also serve to spotlight and kick off the Clackamas County Junior Livestock Auction at 10 a.m.

All five nights will feature the Canby Rodeo beginning at 7:30 p.m., with most — if not all — seats expected to sell out, so purchasing your tickets in advance is strongly encouraged.

“If you’ve never seen the Canby Rodeo, it really is amazing,” Brian says. “I’d definitely encourage you to come and check it out. They put on a great show.”

The Clackamas County Fair and Rodeo will be held from August 15 through the 19th. The Clackamas County Fairgrounds is located at 694 Northeast 4th Avenue in Canby. For more information or tickets, visit clackamascountyfair.com.