Enjoy the sights, smells and sunshine at numerous fairs and festivals


n By Dahniel Ferris


he lights and smells and sounds of a county fair cannot be mistaken for any other experience. Funnel cake and various foods on sticks seem to be standard fare only at a fair. 

The history of state and county fairs in the United States can be traced back to 1816 when the first one was sponsored by an agricultural society in Massachusetts. Fairs began popping up in other areas of the country and tended to focus on agriculture and the exchanging of goods and information, as well as making social connections.

The Klamath County Fair, slated for August 8-11, still has a strong focus on agriculture and livestock. Youth members of 4H clubs show and auction animals they have raised. There are also exhibits and awards for home economics and food, sewing and photography.

These traditional activities attract a lot of attention, but other traditions enjoyed at the Klamath County Fair are the carnival and the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) Rodeo. Locals and visitors alike enjoy the vibrant feel of the carnival with its delicious smells, colorful lights and groups of people having a great time.  

The excitement of the rodeo is hard to resist. The Klamath crowd will gladly teach you the ropes if you’ve never been to an authentic rodeo. Eight seconds may not sound like much, but it’s an eternity for a cowboy on a bucking bull or bronco. 

The Klamath County Fair is held in the Klamath County Fairgrounds and Event Center. The facility was originally established in 1902 specifically for the annual county fair, but it now serves the community year-round as a venue for a wide variety of shows, events and gatherings.

In addition to the county fair, locals love to frequent the annual Tulelake-Butte Valley Fair just four miles south of the Oregon/California border in the town of Tulelake, Calif. This fair has an interesting history and still holds bragging rights to the fact it does not charge an entry or parking fee. This is a true community fair and it’s scheduled to be held on Sept. 5-8 this year.

Locals wanted a fair, but they were fought at a state level. There were a few dedicated to the cause who eventually got legislative approval to move forward, but no money to do so. At the first meeting of the Fair Board in February 1952, the board took up a collection to get started since there were no funds. At the end of the first meeting they had a budget of $7. There were no grounds to hold a fair, so arrangements were made to hold the first fair on the old high school lawn. The carnival was set up in the street in front of the Legion Hall alongside the old bowling alley. 

The fair is now held on 35 acres of what was once an alfalfa field. The first fair on the present fair grounds was held on Labor Day weekend 1954. The buildings consisted of two cattle barns, one restroom, and an auction building which was also used that year for indoor exhibits. The fairgrounds have grown considerably since then and boast several buildings, barns, a museum and dedicated concessions area.  

The free parking and entry are what draw a lot of folks, but the Tulelake-Butte Valley Fair puts on a traditional fair with rides, games, exhibits, animals and food that can only be described as “fair food.”  It’s an old-fashioned feel with modern-day convenience, and it’s all within a quick drive of Klamath County.

Fairs aren’t the only festivities in the area. Festivals of all kinds are also well attended and reflect the culture and history of the Klamath Basin. The Klamath Tribes’ annual Restoration Celebration, for example, is a multi-day event celebrating the 1986 restoration of federal recognition of the tribes after having that recognition terminated by Congress in 1954.  

Activities are held in the colorful town of Chiloquin and start on Aug. 23 with a parade down Main Street. One of the biggest draws is the Pow Wow, which highlights the rich and vital traditions of the Klamath Tribes. The 27th annual Restoration Celebration runs Aug. 23-25 and all events are drug, alcohol and smoke free.

The annual Klamath Basin Potato Festival is a fall favorite held in the quaint town of Merrill, an 11-mile drive south of Henley Schools on Highway 39. The festival includes a parade, BBQ, events and exhibits. The first festival was held in Fall 1934 and is held annually in late October to celebrate the end of the harvesting season.

Locals look forward to gathering to socialize after working so hard on crops all summer, as well as to celebrate a major commodity of the area. Folks can find delicious baked potatoes, fries and other fun food. The parade is a tradition for many families, groups and businesses. It is a great time that welcomes newcomers like old friends. 

Whether you are looking for the lights and entertainment of a county fair or the down-home fun of a local festival, Klamath County has you covered. Check out www.DiscoverKlamath.com for more information on events
 in the area.