Fairgrounds has big plans for future

Polk County Fair -- Aug. 9-12 -- Rickreall


Young children enjoying carnival rides will be just one of the many sights to take in during this year's Polk County Fair, which opens Thursday at 10 a.m. in Rickreall.


RICKREALL -- Imagine driving down Highway 99W toward the Polk County Fairgrounds during the annual fair and seeing an illuminated carnival -- not just with little kid rides, but those of the bigger, more thrilling variety.

That could be just one of the many changes that may occur at the Polk County Fairgrounds & Event Center if a vision for the site becomes reality.

The Polk County Fair Board has been working on a proposal to redesign the layout and add facilities to the fairgrounds for several months. Under the draft proposal, the annual fair's carnival would be moved to part of the parking lot area, providing more space.

"One of the things we've always discussed here is that we just have that little carnival in the back," said Tina Andersen, the Polk County Fair manager. "They would like to bring some of the bigger rides, but we don't have room for that now. This would give them an opportunity.

"It would be a good sight for everyone to see on Highway 99 because that would be the first thing you see."

The fair just received the draft plans last week and will unveil them during the annual fair, which opens Thursday and runs through Sunday with the theme "Fun for the Whole Herd."

The vision includes new indoor and outdoor arenas, a new "multipurpose ag building," a new 4-H building and a reconfigured layout of the 20-acre site.

Fair board members will be available at a booth at the fair this week to answer questions and take comments on the plan.


"We are interested in the community's input to see what needs to be adjusted or changed," said Ray Steele, the fair board chairman.

He said the comments could lead to changes as the board works toward completing final plans over the next six months. He said after the fair, the board will schedule several public hearings on the plans, where people can offer suggestions or express concerns.

"I think it's been a very exciting process." Steele said.

He said the planning began after the fair board realized the current layout at the fairgrounds wasn't conducive to expansion. He said in the past not much thought went into planning where to put new facilities.

"They just put them where they would fit," Andersen said.

With the fairgrounds' usage increasing, it's apparent that strategy wouldn't work any longer.

"It became clear to the fair board that we needed to have a visioning master plan as we grew because there had to be some logic to how we would expand the fair," Steele said.

Andersen said the board and staff are excited about the plans, created by Portland-based LRS Architects.

Photo by Pete Strong

Terry Brumble of Dallas enters an assortment of miniature wooden buildings made from Popsicle sticks into the Polk County Fair's crafts category Monday.

She said the layout will create better sight lines and better organized foot traffic patterns for the annual fair, as well as other events held year-round. She said people will be able to see or easily find all facilities on the grounds upon entering, which may translate to better attendance at fair shows and events.

She used the arena as an example.

"One of the things that people really don't like is that the arena seems to be off on its own," she said. "It's hidden behind buildings. There isn't even a good flow of traffic to get people over that way."

Steele noted that some of the facilities are outdated and the location of the entertainment stage and livestock show rings weren't properly planned to avoid conflicting with each other.

"The (4-H) building has served its purpose for 60 years and has done very well," he said. "Now we have to look at the changing dynamics of the 4-H program."

Another significant change is that there will not be a permanent stage on the fairgrounds in the new plan.

"We decided that a portable stage makes more sense -- for the year-round events, too," Andersen said. "It allows us to change things so they are not always the same."

Steele stressed, while the fair board is happy with ideas so far, input from the public is a necessary part of the process. He said what will be on display at the fair is a prototype subject to change.

"This is just to show if the fairgrounds expanded, this is what the flow would look like," Steele said.

He added that details about the new buildings, including design, would be addressed later in the planning process.

Andersen said people not able to stop by the fair booth this week to check out the plans will be able to view and comment on them at the fair's website, www.co.polk.or.us/fair.

"It's their fairgrounds, so we want to hear what they have to say," she said.

Bring the "Whole Herd" to the fair



2012 Polk County Fair.


Polk County Fairgrounds & Events Center, 520 S. Pacific Highway (99W), Rickreall.


"Fun for the Whole Herd."


Thursday-Sunday, Aug. 9-12.


Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Daily Admission:

Adults (16 and older), $7; Juniors (ages 11-15), $3; Seniors (ages 62 and up), $3; Children 10 and younger, free.

Season Passes:

Adults, $15; Juniors and Seniors, $8; Children 10 and younger, free.



For more information:

503-623-3048. A fair schedule and information about events appears in the 2012 Polk County Fair special section in this week's Itemizer-Observer.


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