The Experts’ Guide to the Oregon State Fair

Last year, the Oregonian posted a pathetic 4-paragraph article entitled, Grasping the Last of the Oregon State Fair: A Guide for Your Personality Type, and I lamented that my friend, Courtney, and I could have written a far more insightful guide to the OSF. Here we are, 365 days later, and the fair is set to open TOMORROW. Let me tell you, we know how to DO THE FAIR, and today I will share our pro-tips so that you can also have the epic fair experience we wait for all year.


Arrive early – you want to maximize all twelve hours of your fair day, and parking can get full fast so get there no later than noon or you’ll be trekking across dusty fields and waiting in a mile long entrance line.

Bring cash, lots of cash – Parking is $5 cash, admission is $8 and ATMs will gouge you with service fees. Cash will also come in handy when you need to take a rest break and play keno in the Oregon Lottery barn.

Wear Closed-Toed Shoes – Or don’t. But don’t blame me when you’re picking dirty cedar shaving out of your toes and your feet are black with hours of fair dust.


Bee line it for the food. Are you here to eat, or to EAT?? Courtney goes with a gyro and I opt for a baked potato with all the fixins…or possibly a brick of fries with nacho cheese. This is just round one so pace yourself.fairjpg-051b1ff6c30c4db9.jpg

Don’t forget the beer. Nothing washes down the grease like an Oregon IPA. Near the animal barns is a giant beer garden. It’s probably obvious, but don’t order a Coors Light.


Wander the animal barns…ALL the animal barns. Pigs, cows, chickens, rabbits, sheep, and even the pheasants. Courtney waxes intellectual about the judging standards of 4-H while I police children from poking their fingers in the rabbit cages.


Get a snack. You’ve done a lot of walking so it’s time for more food. Perhaps a corndog or kettle corn or a hot scone. (No seriously – who gets a hot scone at the fair?)


Drink another beer and catch some live music from Brady Goss. While it might not be your tradition, it’s our. Brady Goss doesn’t realize he has two fan girls in the audience every year, but we’re there. Find him on the Spirit of Oregon stage pretty much everyday, every other hour.

People watch. The fair brings in the best of the best…weirdos. Look for white guys in offensive t-shirts, cowgirls with swagger, teenagers trying to hard, and of course, carnies. Avoid making eye contact with the religious wing nuts in the “ARE YOU GOING TO HELL?” booth.


Wander the exhibits…ALL the exhibits. Jams, pickles, decorated cakes, lego collections, scrapbooking cards, 15′ tapestries, dollhouses, marshmallows, vegan breads, table settings, honeys, pies, pinecone baskets, tufted leather. It’s all there and more. Hey, there’s my gingerbread house!


Wander the exhibitions hall. Discover the wonderful world of kitchen gadgets, chiropractic chairs, and handcrafted spice racks. You’ll realize the time is right buy a hot tub!


Piously judge the 4-H projects. You call that a poster board? What’s the success criteria for this poorly glued, poorly researched project on bicycle safety? Firearms-Projects-4H.jpg

Get your photo taken at the Olde Tyme Photo Booth. Costumes aren’t just for Halloween, people. For $25, you can get a whole set of prints to hand out to friends and family.


Eat more. It’s basically dinner time so it’s probably time for a five pound turkey leg and another beer. If you can find it, there’s a bloody mary bar that seems to change location every year.



Play the lottery. The Oregon State Lottery has a booth which is a great excuse to sit down in an air conditioned building for 20 minutes and throw away $2…or STRIKE IT RICH.10610478_887260251303729_7804675944868380886_n.jpg

Get a cheap beer. Ugh, you’ve spent a lot of money and the beer garden is way on the other side of the fair. 10557358_887259931303761_6333473887328467770_n.jpg

Throw caution to the wind and hit the carnival rides. Once the sun starts to set, it’s time to move over to the carnival side of the fair. Not only can you test your stomach on a couple rides, but the nighttime people watching adds a whole new element.


Have dessert. You’ve probably already had some, but now it’s officially time. You’ll need something to tide you over for the car ride home. Elephant ears, funnel cake, ice cream, deep fried Oreos.


Take one last look around in sadness as you walk out the gates, knowing that you won’t be back for an entire year. 

Obviously there are many other amazing things to do at the fair, but hopefully I’ve given you a true guide to fun. It all starts TOMORROW and lasts through Labor Day.



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