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Jackson County Expo on strong financial footing

Racing pigs entertain the crowd during the 2021 Jackson County Fair. Andy Atkinson/Mail Tribune
FEMA payments boost bottom line

The Jackson County Expo is on strong financial footing in large part due to the role it’s played in helping the community respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and 2020 wildfires.

Payments from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for use of the facility helped boost the Expo’s reserves.

The Expo started last year with a beginning fund balance of about $390,000, but started this year with an estimated beginning fund balance of about $1,034,000, said Jackson County Administrator Danny Jordan.

Jordan said that’s the largest fund growth for The Expo he’s seen in the 18 years he has worked for the county.

“It sets them in a great position,” he said.

The Expo was able to squeeze in a full-capacity fair in July after state COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, and before the delta variant of the virus swept through the community and overloaded hospitals.

More than 70,000 people attended the fair, according to The Expo.

Expo staff had to make contingency plans for everything from a drive-thru fair to a full fair, then had only a few weeks to implement the full-fair option, said Jackson County Fair Board Chairman J.B. Dimick.

“It was a great county fair. Obviously the public was looking for something to do and they came out,” Dimick said.

He said the community showed its support for youth in agriculture by spending $2.6 million at the Junior Livestock Auction. The only fair in the West that topped that figure was the Kern County Fair in California, which sold twice as many animals.

Update: This article has been corrected to show that the highest sales were at the Kern County Fair.

Jackson County Commissioner Colleen Roberts said the generous bidding meant many animals sold for more than $20 a pound.

“The prices were just amazing,” she said.

County commissioners praised the Expo staff and fair board for their work.

When COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations started surging in the Rogue Valley this summer, the fair board and staff decided to postpone the Central Point Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo and the Southern Oregon Brewfest, said Expo Director Helen Funk.

Those large events had been planned for mid-September.

“The choice of the fair board and the staff to cancel the rodeo and the brewfest was one of support to our medical community and our hospitals. We wanted to be a part of the solution and not part of the problem in creating mass gathering events during the time when the hospitals were at capacity,” Funk said.

In northeastern Oregon, the annual Pendleton Round-Up rodeo went on as planned from Sept. 11-18. As of this week, the rodeo is now linked to at least 49 new COVID-19 cases, according to public health officials there.

Funk said the fair board and Expo staff are keeping an eye on COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations to see if the Southern Oregon Holiday Market can be held as planned Nov. 12-14.

The holiday artisan and craft fair is the largest in Southern Oregon, according to The Expo.

About 170-180 vendors are signed up to take part in the holiday fair, Funk said.

“It will be big if we are able to move forward with that,” she said.

Jackson County Commissioner Rick Dyer said as the pandemic surge subsides, The Expo is in good financial shape to carry out its goals to become an even better facility.

“Our community is ready to get back to what we have been — and to be even better moving forward,” he said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.