SALEM — After undergoing an organizational transformation aimed at shoring up its year-round finances, the Oregon State Fair is ready to open to the public Friday.
“For the 149th Oregon State Fair, our charge has been reinvigorating the event and instilling fun back into it for the public,” said Amber Lindsey, a spokeswoman for the fair.
The Oregon Legislature approved an administrative make-over last winter, taking the fair out of the state Parks and Recreation Department management.
“So far, it has made it easier to execute on decisions. They can be made quickly by the Oregon State Fair Council instead of having to work through government layers,” Lindsey said.
The 11-day Oregon State Fair is self-supporting and financially successful, but the Oregon State Fairgrounds loses money throughout the rest of the year.
“A big reason we changed was in order to answer the question, ‘What will we do with the fairgrounds that other 350 something days a year?’” Lindsey said.
The Legislature addressed that question last year. It enacted legislation that transferred control of the Oregon State Fairgrounds and Exposition Center to a newly formed public corporation. The legislation created an 11-member Oregon State Fair Council that was then charged with supervising the formation of the public/private hybrid organization that would be in charge of the Oregon State Fair and the fairgrounds year-round.
Since 2005 the fairgrounds had been under the state Parks and Recreation Department. As of this year, the Oregon State Fair Council has taken over the responsibilities of management for both fair and fairgrounds, and has contracted with Don Hillman, a former fair manager, to oversee the 2014 fair.
“We hired Don Hillman to manage the fair for 2014, in the meantime the council is searching for another person to manage the OSF and the fairgrounds year-round,” Lindsey said.
The permanent manager will be on board for next year’s sesquicentennial celebration of the fair.
“We’re excited to lay the groundwork for the 150th year, that’ll be an even bigger event,” Lindsey said.
As a result of the administrative shift, the price of admission has dropped, but parking now will cost $5.
Several popular music artists and comedians will perform at the fair this year, and admission to the concerts and events will be free with a general admission ticket. Fairgoers will have a chance to see an eclectic range of musical guests, from Ziggy Marley to Joan Jett to the Beach Boys, all for the price of an $8 general admission ticket.
The Oregon State Fair Council is made up of 11 members chosen by Gov. John Kitzhaber:
• Loyal Burns, Board of Directors, Veterinary Services Inc. and sheep breeder.
• Janet Carlson, Marion County commissioner.
• Jon Chandler, chief executive officer, Oregon Homebuilders Association.
• Gene Derfler, former Oregon Senate president.
• George Jennings, attorney and shareholder, Garrett, Hemann, Robertson P.C.
• Austin McGuigan, Community Development Director, Polk County.
• Leah Perkins-Hagele, fairgrounds manager, Washington County Fair.
• Anna Peterson, Salem mayor.
• Craig Smith, former vice president and chief financial officer, Chemeketa Community College.
• Larry Tokarski, president, Mountain West Investment Corp.
• Kerry Tymchuk, executive director, Oregon Historical Society.