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It's fair time in Jackson County

Fairgoers this year are in store for a smorgasbord of concerts, comedy and history mixed in with the perennial rides, food and agriculture exhibits.

The 2009 Jackson County Fair will be Tuesday through Sunday, July 21-26, at the Jackson County Expo in Central Point.

Fair managers are taking advantage of the state's sesquicentennial year to celebrate their own milestone: the 150th anniversary of the first Jackson County Fair.

It was held in October 1859 in Jacksonville, says Chris Borovansky, fair director.

The Southern Oregon Historical Society will chronicle the fair's history and 150 years of technological advances in exhibits at the fair. "We'll be showcasing heretofore unseen treasures that the historical society has that center around technological advances like the TV and phone," Borovansky says.

A rotary-dial phone will be on display next to an iPhone, for example, and a tube television set will sit alongside a plasma flat panel screen.

"There's a lot of cool stuff people will recognize as 'Holy cow, we've come a long way,' " he says.

Vehicles from every decade of the 20th century up to modern-day electric cars will be displayed Sunday, when admission to the fair is free.

Shows slated for the Lithia Motors Amphitheater range from self-proclaimed "cultural mashers" Ozomatli and comedian Bill Engvall to a trio of country favorites and rock legend Grand Funk Railroad, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.

For kids, a Nickelodeon Concert Tour will offer a kid-friendly farewell to fair week on Sunday.

Borovansky says bargains were integrated into the fair whenever possible in hopes of keeping fair attendance strong in a lagging economy. In addition to Sunday's free admission, there'll be value meals for kids and a host of free, interactive displays. And all concert tickets include the price of fair admission.

Carnival hours will be from noon to midnight Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday. Cost for Butler Amusement rides is $28 for an unlimited-ride bracelet, or $1 per ride ticket, with most rides requiring two to five tickets.

"We try to make sure everything about the fair is a great bargain so local families can enjoy themselves," Borovansky says.

Visit mailtribune.com/fair, jcfairgrounds.com or lithiaamp.org.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Reach her at buffy-pollock@juno.com.

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