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5 things to do at the Jackson County Fair

The theme of this year's Jackson County Fair is "Carnival Lights and Country Nights," a motif thought up and named by community members. Founded in 1859, the fair has long been one of the area's biggest events of the summer.  

Some of the highlights for this year's expo include a rock wall, inflatable water balls to run around in, a mechanical bull, a Lego competition, a bull-riding contest, a free music festival, a display of handiwork by local artisans, and a host of food, beverage and vendor stands. Additional perks include a toddler zone and cellphone charging station. Parking is free each day and, for those who bicycle to the fair, staffed bike valet parking will be available during most hours. Bicyclists will be entered in a drawing to win prizes.

The fair runs Wednesday through Sunday, July 20-24, at the The Expo, 1 Peninger Road, Central Point. Hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $10, $6 for ages 62 through 74, and free for ages 12 and younger and 75 and older, and can be purchased at the gate. Discounted tickets can be purchased through July 19 at Bi-Mart, Sherm's Thunderbird, Food 4 Less and The Expo. Sunday's fair admission is free for everyone.

1. Carnival

The carnival will host about two dozen rides this year for fair-goers of all ages, with several kid-friendly rides. For more intense rides, check out the Orbiter, Gravitron, Typhoon and Ring of Fire. Play games for prizes all along the midway, including Water Races and basketball.

Many rides have minimum and maximum height requirements, and some rides don't allow single riders, so be sure to double-check before you buy.

Carnival wristbands are available at Sherm's Thunderbird and Food 4 Less for $30 in advance, and $35 at the gate.

2. Live Entertainment

This year's fair features headlining musical acts at 8:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday in the Lithia Amphitheatre at the fairgrounds. Opening acts start at 7:30 p.m.

Country music artist Joe Nichols kicks off the amphitheater shows Wednesday, with country roots singer Briana Renea of Canby as the opening act. Seattle metal rock band Queensryche performs Thursday, with Rogue Valley rock band Hardway Bend opening the show. Country singer, songwriter and guitarist Gary Allan headlines Friday, with Southern California Americana trio Calico. And rock singer and songwriter Eddie Money performs Saturday, with local rockers 221 Fly as the opener.

Reserved seating is $25 to $40 and can be purchased in advance online at attheexpo.com, by calling 541-774-8270, or at the fairgrounds office inside Seven Feathers Event Center. Fair admission is free with reserved tickets.

Lawn seating is free with fair admission. Early-bird tickets for lawn seating are $5, $10 for a family of four, and are available at the fair gates and at the amphitheater's ticket booth. The early-bird entry line begins at 6 p.m.

Local and regional acts will present free concerts and live entertainment throughout each day on the Center Stage next to the north parking lot.

Medford rock group The Evening Shades and singer and songwriter Brenna Beatty are among those set for Wednesday; country band TJ and the Spurs, soul singer Bishop Mayfield and blues guitarist and singer Hank Shreve will be among the acts featured Thursday; Friday's lineup includes soul and funk band Frankie Hernandez Band and country band Fogline; while country band Billy Lund and Whiskey Weekend and punk band Another Anthem are among those set for Saturday.

On Sunday, look for youth groups America's Best Kids, Ballet Folklorico Ritmo Alegre and Precision Cheer. The Center Stage lineup also includes several shows by magician and mentalist Hart Keene from NBC's "America's Got Talent."

3. Exhibits

This year's exhibits offer a look at everything from local arts and crafts to exotic animals and mechanical bull rides.

For nature and garden lovers, Rogue Valley Grown offers a food systems network exhibit in the Mace Watchable Wildlife Memorial Center. The free DirtPark interactive exhibit in the Seven Feathers Event Center will educate fair-goers about topics such as gardening, composting and rainwater catch systems. A new exhibit this year, the Jackson County Map, features large touch screens to explore county parks.

The arts and crafts displays, including photography, food and horticulture, will be showcased in the Padgham Pavilion. In the Seven Feathers Event Center, a DIY craft station will allow fair-goers to make their own crafts and take them home, while the Fair Marketplace offers a variety of wares made by local vendors.

Animal lovers will want to visit the exhibits next to the Mace Watchable Building, including the petting zoo, which features smaller livestock, and the Walk on the Wildside exhibit, which has a tiger cub, baby wallaby and Canada lynx. New this year is a Great American Pig Race. The Pirate's Parrot Show features colorful birds from around the world, interactive activities, speech and flight performances and pirate-ship display. Fair-goers can hold the birds or enjoy watching them fly around the fairgrounds.

ScienceWorks Weekend will provide several interactive, educational displays for kids of all ages. Space-themed kiosks comprise the Outreach to Space exhibit, in addition to a host of other activities with everything from bubble stations to robots. ScienceLive will hold performances every hour at the fair from 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

4. Livestock  

Jackson County Junior Livestock Auction will showcase this year's 4-H and FFA members and their projects, which will be judged at the fair. Members spend countless hours raising their livestock projects in preparation for the fair and the auction. Sales of the livestock projects help compensate members for their small-scale costs as well as investing in future projects and educational pursuits. The livestock auctions will be held at Olsrud Arena, with the swine and poultry silent auction at 7 p.m. Wednesday and the beef and goat auction at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Come by the arena to bid on animals and meet the young people who raised them.

5. Rodeo

The fourth annual Jackson County Stockmen's Association Ranch Rodeo will be held at 11 a.m. Sunday in the Isola Arena. The event is a tribute to Western heritage and features competitions between cowboys from working ranches.

For information about the fair, including specific events, exhibits, tickets and maps, call 541-774-8270, see www.attheexpo.com or download the Jackson County Fair app.

Medford rock band The Evening Shades presents a free concert at the Center Stage. Mail Tribune / File photo
Chris Biro of the Pirate's Parrot Show holds a scarlet macaw. Mail Tribune / File photo