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Ready for the fair

After a mad scramble of herding and cleaning animals, setting up rides and food stands and judging baked goods, the Jackson County Fair opens today at the county fairgrounds in Central Point, much to the relief of Fair Director Dave Koellermeier.

"The day it starts, that's the most fun day," Koellermeier said. "Today (Monday), that's not the most fun day; it's about 2,000 people moving all over the place trying to do everything."

Among those 2,000 people were the fair's 4-H and livestock participants, who among other duties were cleaning and grooming pigs, cows, turkeys, chickens and horses, to name a few.

Fifteen-year-old Sammie Beck, who attends Crater High School, said that washing and drying her cows was the key to success in showing them. She said that of the 10 cows her family was showing in the fair, her cow, Olivia, had the best chance to take a top prize.

But Sammie's sister, Nicole, also 15, said her pick for the best showing was a heifer named Justice.

Across from the cows, entrants in the pig showing herded and corralled their pigs in a pen that stood oinking distance away from a Hawaiian-style pork roast setup. A sow named Jill the Pill seemed blissfully unaware of the buffet as she was led around the practice pen by her handler, 9-year-old Caden Coffman of Sam's Valley.

But the fair is all about food, and when asked what Jill's favorite treat was, Caden had a quick answer:

"Marshmallows," he said, "We just gave her some, and she fell in love with them."

Scott Coffman, Caden's father, said he was involved with raising livestock when he was young, and that many of the young people participating in the fair today are the children of people whom he grew up with.

"Every 10 or 15 years or so, it's like the cycle repeats," Scott said. "It's like you get to see all of your old friends again."

In addition to livestock judging, food, and arts and crafts events, the fair will feature big name music acts on the Lithia Motors Amphitheater stage. Nickelodeon boy band Big Time Rush plays tonight, country western star Clay Walker on Wednesday, and Joan Jett and the Black Hearts on Thursday.

Unlike last year, the cost of attending one of these shows will not be included in the cost of admission to the fair.

Gold- and silver-level tickets for Big Time Rush are $37 and $27 respectively, with lawn tickets going for $10. Koellermeier said despite the cost increase, the concerts were selling well and that Big Time Rush was nearly sold out as of Monday evening.

Koellermeier said that the price changes were necessary to make the fair and its musical events financially possible.

"We did the free concerts, and this proved not to be fiscally sound," Koellermeier said, "We've gotten mixed reactions to (the price change).

"I know that some people have responded well because now they can reserve seats," he said.

Mat Wolf is a reporting intern. Reach him at 541-776-4481 or by email at mwolf@mailtribune.com.

Fluffy gets a cool drink Monday at the Jackson County fairgrounds. - Julia Moore