Although the 105th annual Columbia County Fair & Rodeo will not happen this year, there will be limited entertainment at the fairgrounds in the upcoming months.
Those activities include a plant sale, which has already occurred, a drive-in concert on Aug. 22, and potentially another drive-in concert in September, according to the fair board.
The fair board decided to cancel the annual event at its May 7 board meeting after receiving guidelines on the reopening of the state from Oregon Governor Kate Brown in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the fair board has been in discussions since then about possible events to hold instead, according to fair board vice president Julie Pelletier.
One of those events has already been held, on July 17, 18 and 19, the last three days the fair would have been held this year, and that was the annual plant sale, held at the fairgrounds, 58892 Saulser Road in St. Helens. The sale featured plants donated by Means Nursery in Scappoose.
The plant sale occurs every year during the fair. Proceeds go toward fairgrounds upkeep, according to fair board president Jamie Carr, who said the sale usually raises about $34,000.
This year, the sale brought in just under $24,000, according to Carr. However, the fair board members said they are calling that a win, even though it is three-quarters less than what they usually raise.
“Our first day, we did $11,000, which is the most the sales have ever done in one day,” Carr said.
Those sales occurred in spite of having less plants to sell this year, which was done intentionally due to uncertainty of how many people would come out, Carr said. While Means Nursery typically brings out eight truckloads of plants, this year they brought four, according to Carr. However, those items were bigger, more costlier items, like trees, rather than flowers, Carr said.
The sales were done in a drive-in style, while keeping social distancing rules in place. Carr said about 18-20 cars would come in at a time to pick up shrubbery they had ordered. Live bands were also present during the sale, including local band The Decades, Carr said.
“It was a good experience to get our feet wet with social distancing outdoors,” Carr said.
That social distancing experience is going to help with drive-in concerts coming up in the near future, such as the one scheduled for Aug. 22 at the fairgrounds.
So far, the fair board has planned for three bands to come, with anywhere from 90 minutes to two hours given to each band. Tickets will be $30 per car. Those who wish to sit up front in their own chairs can pay $5 extra in order to sit closer to the band. Bands scheduled for the concert include Grumpy Old Men, Decades and Hit Machine as the headliner.
In addition to the music performances, fair board vice president Pelletier is working on bringing food vendors, with six vendors already lined up, and two more in the works. Carr said the fair board is also trying to set up the beer garden run by the Elks Lodge that typically happens at the fair every year, although those plans are not for certain at this point.
Whether or not the August concert is successful will dictate whether or not there will be a September concert, Carr said. If there is a September drive-in concert, it will be Sept. 12, according to Carr. Bands have not yet been chosen for that concert.
Other activities are also in the works, and the fair board will release more details as they become available.
The Columbia County Fairgrounds is located at 58892 Saulser Road in St. Helens. Contact fair representatives at 503-397-4231.