Fair promises thrills, food and fun

The Jackson County Fair returns July 15-20 with the usual menu of rides, food, animals, crafts, exhibits and entertainment. But there are some new wrinkles, too.

"We've embarked on a major recycling program to make the fair a little greener," Fair CEO Chris Borovansky says.

There are no trans-fats in the food, he says. And the fair has gone smoke-free but for one area near the east entrance to the Lithia Motors Amphitheater. The change was phased in over five years.

"We don't want to give people the idea they're not welcome," Borovansky says.

If you don't like the cost of gas and the hassle of parking, consider catching a Rogue Valley Charter Services tour bus. Forty-seven buses will be running from 10:30 a.m. to midnight each day but Sunday, July 20, when they will run from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. It's $1 to the fair, and return trips are free.

Catch the bus at Sherm's Food-4-Less in Medford and Crater High School in Central Point. Departures every 30 minutes.

For those who think of the carnival as the piece de resistance of the fair, it will operate from noon to midnight each day but Sunday, when it will run end at 7 p.m.

Rides include the Energy Storm and its spinning buckets, the thunderbolt with its undulating motion and the Super Shot Drop Tower, which features an accelerated free-fall from 90 feet. Rides typically cost four or five coupons. Coupons are $1, 20 for $24 and 80 for $50. Unlimited rides are $28 a day.

For more active fairgoers, consider a 30-foot rock-climbing wall, three bungee- bouncing setups and a mechanical bull. They can be found near the Technology Pavilion.

Speaking of which, the pavilion is back for a 14th year, in a 6,800-square-foot, air-conditioned space. It's being touted as being more interactive than ever. The CyberCenter will feature gaming, race car simulators, virtual gold and virtual hunting. The Technology Stunt Show will look at how things hi-tech have changed our lives. The city of Central Point will have an exhibit on city services. ScienceWorks of Ashland will feature "Outreach to Space!" with a rocket, air-pressure experiments, star spectra and other spacey stuff.

For the performance minded, the Fair has once again rounded up some big names. The Beach Boys and Peter Frampton headline the lineup at the Expo's Lithia Amphitheater. Tickets are $29 each night. Shows start at 8 p.m. every night but Sunday, when there's no show. Here's the lineup:

Tuesday &

Plain White Ts.

Wednesday &

Terri Clark and Craig Morgan.

Thursday &

Peter Frampton.

Friday &

The Beach Boys.

Saturday &

Bob and Tom Comedy All-Stars.

Borovansky portrays the entertainment as a value, and he has a point, with concert tickets these days often costing two or three times fair prices. And that's for reserved seats. Lawn seating is free with $8 admission

Not all the entertainers are two-leggers. J.D. Platt's K9 Kings is a show that mixes music, costumes, comedy and audience participation with some highly trained performing dogs.

Animal artists of another sort &

the feathered variety &

will do their thing on the big Community Theater Stage in the Fair's Chaisson Park. Wildlife Images' Birds of Prey program will feature a barn owl, great horned owl, red-tailed hawk, Swainson's hawk and both golden and bald eagles.

For the shop-til-you-drop set, Buyer's Marketplace will offer more than 130 vendors in the Compton Arena. The Food Court will offer main dishes, desserts and drinks for tastes from Mexican to Thai.

And don't forget the traditional heart of the fair, the livestock, horses, quilts, tractors, fruits and vegetables and the like, most of which are on display at the Padgham Pavilion. See tatting, crafts such as cross-stitch, china painting, stationary making, dried flowers, culinary herbs and much more.

The fair also is home to the second largest livestock auction on the West Coast. The Junior Livestock Auction last year raised nearly $1 million, with proceeds going to young people who raise and show animals and to offset expenses. About 500 young people are expected to take part this year according to organizers. The swine and poultry auction is at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, and the beef and goat auction at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The public is invited.

Borovansky says the hardest part of putting on the fair each year is the name entertainment.

"That world has changed so much," he says. "There aren't a lot of record contracts anymore. Everybody has raised his price, and it's tough to get answers."

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