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The best of summer

Cotton candy, funnel cakes, piglets and carnival rides. The Jackson County Fair draws visitors with the best of summer, and this year's fair will be jam-packed with traditional food, exhibitions, live entertainment and other fun.

Some of the entertainment included in the price of fair admission will be the Butterfly Adventure, an oasis of native plants and butterflies; the Pirate and Parrots Show, an authentic-looking pirate ship and parrots with uncanny abilities for communication; Super Science, with magnetic puzzles, optical illusions and brainteasers; Washboard Willy's musical jam sessions for kids; and Xtreme AirDogs, the most athletic dogs you'll ever see.

Hallmarks of the county fair include the 4-H Youth Development and Future Farmers of America competitions and exhibits. Comprehensive schedules are available at www.attheexpo.com.

Other exhibits include livestock, horses, quilts, baked goods, food preservation, sewing, crafts, photographs, floral arrangements, tractors and technology. The talents and skills of the community will be showcased here.

Hours will be from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, July 17-21, and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, July 22. Carnival hours will be from noon to midnight Tuesday through Saturday and from noon to 7 p.m. Sunday.

Concerts in The Expo's Lithia Motors Amphitheater kick off Tuesday with rock band Foreigner. The group will be joined by South Medford High School's Chamber Choir for "I Want to Know What Love Is," the final song of the show. Foreigner, an advocate of music education, will donate $500 to the choir.

Rock artist Bret Michaels and his band will take the stage Wednesday; Australian pop singer Cody Simpson performs Thursday; and country singer LeAnn Rimes headlines Friday.

Rimes has been singing professionally since she was 8. The Grammy Award-winning vocalist has 13 albums to her credit, the newest being "Lady & Gentlemen," released in 2011 on her label, Curb Records. A newer album, "Spitfire," is tentatively set for release at the end of the year.

"Spitfire" is a collection of new originals by Rimes, with the exception of Missy Higgins' "Where I Stood."

"I'm trying to tell a story with 'Spitfire,' " Rimes says. "And Missy's song was a perfect fit. It's the story of my life over the past three years. It explores every emotion I've experienced as a human being, not as a country star."

"Spitfire" tells all that listeners know about Rimes, and things they don't know, she says.

"I want listeners to relate to the songs in their own lives," she says. "My shows also are about connecting with others. I've grown into a woman after 20 years in show business, and I'm not afraid to connect with the audience, with other human beings."

Rimes brings bassist and bandleader Joeie Canaday to her show at The Expo, along with drummer Christopher Knight, guitarist Gregory Hagan and steel guitarist Rusty Danmyer.

Rimes broke into country music in 1996 with her debut album "Blue," which reached the top of the country charts and was multiplatinum-selling. Its eponymous single, penned by Dallas disc jockey and record promoter Bill Mack, originally was intended for Patsy Cline. After Cline's death in 1963, Mack discovered a similarly lush vocal style in Rimes.

Regional musicians, bands and other live enter-tainment will be showcased on the Dinner Stage each day of the fair. See the lineup at www.attheexpo.com.

New this year, country-rock band Sweet Town Little will perform Friday and Saturday nights at the western-styled Rogue Saloon, and a Hispanic Music Festival with music and dancing by La Tribu de Mexico and Nueva Esencia will be presented from 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday, July 22, in the Olsrud Arena.

Fair admission is $11, $6 for ages 6 to 11 and 62 to 74; free for ages 5 and younger and 75 and older.

Tickets will be $6 for veterans Tuesday, July 17; $3 for seniors 62 to 74 Wednesday, July 18; and $3 for kids 6 to 11 Thursday, July 19. Discounted tickets will be available only from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Two-for-one admission will be available all day Sunday, July 22. Tickets will be available at the gate. Advance admission and concert tickets are available at www.attheexpo.com.

Parking costs $4, and attendants will direct traffic at Gates 1 and 4. Air-conditioned bus rides cost $1 and leave every half-hour starting at 10:30 a.m. from Sherm's Food 4 Less on Medford's Biddle Road and Crater High School's stadium parking lot in Central Point. The last bus leaves the fair's North Gate at midnight.

See www.attheexpo.com for information.

Scott Mosenson and Kendra Musenson of Los Angelas leave the 2011 Jackson County Fair in victory. - Photo by Jamie Lusch