Almost too much of a good thing
The number of Jackson County Fair goers surpassed the number of parking spaces Friday night.
Running out of parking is the type of problem any event organizer prefers to have — especially after dipping attendance prior to the pandemic — but Jackson County Expo director Helen Funk said she saw the cars parked Friday night along Peninger Road and “anywhere they could put their car” — and saw a problem nonetheless.
The solution involved Saturday morning phone calls and the rapid response of two school districts.
Funk called the staff at Central Point and Eagle Point school districts “official cape-wearing superheroes” for taking her call at 9 a.m. Saturday, and within two hours giving her a yes to a free fair bus shuttle.
“That’s a pretty big deal,” Funk said.
Funk added that it’s not particularly easy to find people who can drive a school bus on a Saturday morning in July, but by 11 a.m. the superintendents had agreed to a bus shuttle from 5 p.m. to midnight between the fairgrounds and Crater High School.
“I gave them all the reasons to say no, and they found a way to say yes,” Funk said.
Funk estimated Friday’s attendance at “around 20,000” but called her estimate “fuzzy math” as she awaited more ticket and attendance data early Saturday afternoon at the Expo office.
Firmer preliminary numbers estimated Friday’s attendance between 16,000 and 18,000 people Friday, but Funk said she’s skeptical based on numbers that the fair’s concessions stands provided.
As Jodie Dirkson grilled vegetables and cooked six varieties of links just prior to the lunch rush at the New York Style Italian Sausage concession stand Saturday, she said “business has been wonderful” this year.
“It’s good to be back outside,” Dirkson said.
Also enjoying the fair with an order of curly fries large enough to easily fit three portion cups of ketchup in the center was Jed Hardwick of White City, and his sons Joshiua, 6, and Jonnithan, 10.
“It’s good to be out with the kids having some fun with the kids today,” Hardwick said as his boys munched on corn dogs.
The kids each said their favorite thing at the fair thus far was the fun house, with Jonnithan saying he liked all of its different mirrors in it.
Concession stands this year offered more than just the traditional favorites such as elephant ears, hamburgers and funnel cakes.
More adventurous options included a Hawaiian teriyaki and bento stand, which served chicken, stir fried noodles and rice bowls with lemonade or POG (passion fruit, orange and guava) juice, and the Espicy Mexican food stand which offered “Flamin’ Hot Cheetos” flavored roasted corn and seven flavors of agua fresca alongside more traditional burritos, nachos, tostadas and tortas.
Paul Maurer Shows General Manager Marque Lundgren, the Jackson County Fair’s carnival and ride organizer, said they sold more than 4,000 of the $35 carnival ride wristbands on Friday alone.
As of shortly after 1 p.m. Saturday, Lundgren said he was getting feedback from his ride operators that lines were starting to form — an indicator that they’re in for another busy day.
Despite the crowds, Lundgren and Funk each described minimal first aid incidents this year, and those that did occur largely stemmed from heat related illness.
Medics treated one individual for heat related illness twice in one day, according to Funk, even though she said the fair has many indoor cooling areas.
Lundgren said “it’s the kids that forget” to stay hydrated and take breaks.
Funk said that to her knowledge, there have been no alcohol related incidents such as MIPs or public drunkenness complaints needing law enforcement.
The fair continues until midnight Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $12 for adults Saturday and free for kids 12 and younger, and free for everyone Sunday. See attheexpo.com.