The Umatilla County Fair brought people of all ages and backgrounds together this week with “strong roots and cowboy boots.”
Delaney Wieseler, 12, of Stanfield, was tending to her black calf Mosey all week at the fair. She got Mosey from her grandfather, a rancher who taught her all about proper care of cattle.
“I have to make sure I’m feeding him enough so he actually gains weight, because even at 1,300 pounds he’s light,” she said.
She is also raising two friends for Mosey, named Rusty and French Fry, who served as backup in case something happened to her prize steer before she was ready to show at the fair.
Delaney showed a steer at the fair through 4-H last year, too, because she likes the challenge of a larger animal who needs walked, fed, watered, washed and kept cool.
“It’s like lugging around 1,500 pounds of dead weight,” she said.
Nancy and Jerry Evans are big rodeo fans, and had plans to attend every night of the Farm-City Pro Rodeo this week, but they also spent time checking out the fair exhibits.
Nancy was in 4-H herself as a child, walking two miles home from meetings each week in Colorado.
“To brag a little, I was grand champion in cooking and grand champion in home furnishing my last year,” she said. “That was in 1954.”
She rode her first train all by herself at age 12 to go to a 4-H function.
“She used to ride on what they called the milk train, and it stopped at every little town and dropped off mail and milk and cream and eggs,” Jerry said.
“We picked up bodies too,” Nancy added. “They unloaded a coffin.”
The couple said they were pleased to see today’s children still taking the opportunity to learn practical skills through 4-H.
Addison McClure of Hermiston, “turning 11 soon,” is no stranger to spending time in the barns during fair week. This is already her sixth year there.
She, her brother and her sister are all showing hogs for 4-H this year, but she said they don’t let sibling rivalry pit them against each other.
“They help me to get my pig to make weight,” she said.
It was close for this year’s hog, Spot.
“They have to weigh 240 pounds and he weighed 240 pounds,” she said.
Addison was also showing Snowflake, a pure white Holland Lop rabbit with rare blue eyes.
Jason Collyer was checking out the small animal barn on Wednesday afternoon, but it was gaming that brought him to the fairgrounds.
He said he was spending plenty of time on the full-immersion virtual reality gaming sets at the Tech Tech Goose gaming booth, as well as playing Magic the Gathering with other fairgoers.
The complex trading card game, in which players pit their decks against each other in a simulated battle between wizards, is a favorite of Collyer’s.
“I started out playing Yugio, but once I learned that Magic had an unlimited field size I started playing that more,” he said.
Cate Doherty, 11, is an old hand at the fair — the East Oregonian featured photos of her with her chicken and rabbit four years ago.
She’s still at it, with a Mini Rex rabbit she named Persephone and turkey named Sir Giblets the First.
“They just come to me,” she said, shrugging, when asked where she comes up with names for her animals.
Most of the animals in the barns at the Umatilla County Fair will go up for auction on Saturday, but Cate said she decided to keep Persephone as a pet instead.
Everyone was eager to pet the super-soft black and white rabbit in her arms, but she said fairgoers are less interested in touching Sir Giblets the First.
“Turkeys are very nice,” Cate said. “Don’t be afraid of them.”
Ryne Jones of the Tri-Cities was keeping cool in triple-digit heat at the fair this week.
He and his family sat in the shade by a wide, shallow pool as they ran the “water bobbles” ride. Riders are zipped inside a large plastic ball which, after being inflated, allows them to run around on top of the water.
“It’s hands down the most fun you can have at the fair,” he said.
There’s no age limit, so Jones sees riders from young children to “itty bitty grandmas” trying to help their grandchildren build up the courage to try it out.
During most of the year he managers a pizza parlor, but in the summer Jones and his family hit the road to run the water bobble ride at fairs around the Pacific Northwest.
“It’s pretty demanding for us as we work 60-70 hours a week, but it’s really rewarding to see the smiles on kids’ faces and on parents’ faces watching their kids have fun,” he said.
Chuck Peck served up “monstrously huge” foods at the appropriately named Monster Foods during the fair. The booth includes pizza-sized elephant ears, extra-long corn dogs and giant blocks of curly fries.
“We’ve got the biggest food you’ll find anywhere,” he said.
His favorite is making the corn dogs.
“Corn dogs are my gig,” he said.
He tours with the booth each May through November.
“It’s a great opportunity to get to work with friends and family,” he said. “We’ve got a really good team going on and we have the opportunity to affect a lot of people and make a lot of people happy with our food.”