HERMISTON — As pigs roll around in the swine barn, and musicians draw crowds on the Main Stage, a dozen or so bales of straw provide seating for where the magic really happens — the Les Schwab Stage at the Umatilla County Fair.
It’s where Jace Otteson, 14, traded in his belt and shoes for two used Barbie dolls while under the spell of hypnotist Chris Mabrey.
“It was fun,” said Otteson, who noted he was a little embarrassed about his dazed performance.
It’s also where juggler Jeremiah Johnston teetered on a wobbly wooden board while tossing knives and torches into the air with ease during his act Thursday night, and where comedy cowboy Leapin’ Louie broke spaghetti with the crack of a whip on Friday afternoon.
“This is the real spaghetti western,” he told the crowd.
But professional entertainers set down their props to make way for a lively group of 45 kids, who shared their performance with the fair to mark the end of the Fun at the Fair Day Camp.
All week, they’d been rehearsing a dance to the contagiously well-known song “Baby Shark” by Pinkfong. As the song began, some of the participants seemed a little shy about the dance. But by the end, everyone sporting a blue campers’ shirt had joined in.
And while the performance was short, the days leading up to it were action-packed for campers. This week, they got a closer look at 4-H show animals, and received up-close performances from Leapin’ Louie and Mz. Pearl of Mz. Pearl’s Variety Show. They also participated in arts and crafts projects.
“We got to see the animals,” said Elaina Jewett, 7, who attended the camp with her little sister, Taylor. “And we got a bracelet.”
This year, the camp was open for children ages 6 through 11, and was sponsored by Family Health Associates.
“We had a good group of different ages,” said Tammy Wagner, the camp’s director.
Wagner, whose husband is on the fair board, started the camp in 2012. Originally, it was meant as a place for the children of vendors and other workers at the fair to have fun while their parents were working. But it has since been opened up to all members of the community.
Registration for camp, which accepts 45 kids every year, opened in April and filled up fast, according to Wagner. She hopes to amp up activities in the kid’s tent at the fair next year.
“This is kind of my thing; it’s my way of contributing to the fair,” Wagner said.