The Umatilla County Fair joined 16 other fairs in the state that place restrictions on smoking.

The county board of commissioners voted 3-0 Wednesday to approve a plan to allow smoking only in certain areas at this year’s fair and to ban smoking entirely in 2014.

The smoking prohibition was sparked by the efforts of six Helix 4-H club members, who last year asked the Umatilla County Fair Board to declare the fair grounds smoke-free because cigarette smoke drifted into camping areas and animal barns. The seven member fair board approved the new smoking rules March 19, then sent it on to commissioners.

Fairgrounds manager Peggy Anderson told commissioners the board decided to use a “stair-step” approach to give vendors time to adjust to the new policy.

The fair board learned at a seminar in January that 16 county fairs in Oregon already had smoking bans, Anderson said. The Umatilla County Fair previously restricted smoking on the grounds for safety purposes. The new policy allows smoking in certain areas at the fair effective Aug. 1 through Dec. 31. Anderson said the board is still working out where to allow smoking. The fairgrounds become smoke free Jan. 1, 2014.

Gay Newman said some of his fellow fair board members didn’t want to wait until 2014 to ban smoking, but all supported the policy.

The county’s health department will help with signage to direct smokers to approved areas, and Anderson said the board also learned at the seminar the public is good about enforcing no-smoking rules.

Commissioner Dennis Doherty said while it wasn’t clear whether going smoke-free was about health, safety or the annoyance of cigarette smoke, he supported the move, as did fellow Commissioners Bill Elfering and Larry Givens.

About 86,000 people visit the fair each year, and the East Oregonian has received two letters to the editor critical of making the fair smoke free. Both men vowed they wouldn’t go the fair again. More than 20 attended the meeting at the Umatilla County Courthouse, Pendleton, and no one voiced opposition.

Calista Berg, though, said she was proud of her granddaughter, 12-year-old Sadie Wilson, a member of the Helix 4-H club that pushed for a smoke-free fair.


Contact Phil Wright at or 541-966-0833.

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