Dorran makes 20th fair his last

Dan Dorran, left, talks to mutton buster Mason Mendenhall, 4, of Hermiston after his ride Friday before the start of the Farm-City Pro Rodeo in Hermiston.

Dan Dorran told the crowd at the Umatilla County Fair kickoff barbecue that this year would be his last on the fair board.

But he says he doesn’t want to be honored for his 20 years on the Umatilla County Fair Board. In fact, he didn’t even want to talk about it.

“It would take too long to talk about all of that,” he said.

Instead, he spent the days before his last fair as a board member doing what he’s always done: putting the fair together.

Dorran’s term on the board is set to expire, but he plans to continue serving on the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center board. He will also remain involved with Friends of the Fair and Rodeo, the fund-raising arm supporting both organizations.

Dorran, a Hermiston native, said being on the fair board is not an honorary or ceremonial role. It’s a hands-on, working board.

“We work every day, all day long,” he said.

Leading up to this year’s fair at its new home, Dorran was busy. He showed a group of city councilors around the fairgrounds the day before it opened. He noted details that had been added this year and said hello to vendors who were new to the Umatilla County Fair. He pointed out things that needed to be fixed.

“A couple things we’ve done differently,” he said, driving the group by the concert stage where a new musical act will perform each night. “We’ve opened up the concert area a lot more. You’ll be able to see clear across the grounds to the concert area.”

He knew all about the food being sold at the fair, and the people selling it.

“Like Zach here, out of Arizona,” he said, pointing to a young man who was working at Piggly’s Barbecue. “Zach and his dad travel the West Coast doing this. They’ve got a great product.”

He stopped to say hello to a woman setting up a Hawaiian Teriyaki cart, also new to this year’s fair.

“One thing about the fair folks,” he said. “They’re some of the most incredible partners we’ve dealt with. Everybody works together.”

He added that in a partnership, it’s OK to get frustrated.

“In a half-hour, I’m gonna get mad at all of them, because we’re going to be so plugged up, we’re not going to be able to get the rest of the folks in,” he said, nodding at a vendor who was busy plugging cords into an electrical outlet.

Dorran drove the councilors around the grounds with obvious pride in how the project has come together — but also with a realistic approach to the challenges ahead.

“The ‘warts,’” he said, taking them to the back of the lot where several pieces of equipment from the old fairgrounds were stored. “This is where we spent our Christmas vacation, we moved everything from the old grounds.”

Dorran was hesitant to talk about his own work in making the fair happen, noting all the people it takes to put on the event.

“It’s not me,” he said. “There’s so many other people.”

And of course, it’s not goodbye to everything. He was still in the ring, dodging sheep and chasing after kids as the announcer of the Mutton Bustin’ event at the Farm-City Pro Rodeo, a fan favorite.

“Some day, I’ll tell the story of how I started doing that,” he said.

Until then, he’ll keep doing what he likes best — helping it all come together one more time.

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