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Fairground marks a century

A bill that commemorates the 100th anniversary of Hunt Memorial Park as the home of the Wasco County Fair has passed the House and is expected to be approved by the Senate later this week.

Rep. John Huffman, R-The Dalles, and Sen. Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, sponsored House Concurrent Resolution 203 at the request of Ken Polehn, a local fair board member.

“This was one of those requests that came from a constituent and we were very pleased to be able to help out,” said Huffman.

Polehn said having the Tygh Valley home of the fair recognized for a century of achievement was the first step toward getting a historical designation through the state.

“We were just looking for some recognition because 100 years is a pretty big deal,” he said.

According to Polehn, the fair board is planning some special events for the 2014 fair — the third week in August — but has not yet decided on the specific activities.

“We are working on it,” he said.

He is asking people with historical pictures of the fair to send copies via email to kenpolehn@gmail.com. Submitted photos will be mounted on a special display during this year’s fair.

“Fairs started out to be an educational thing,” he said. “They brought farmers together to share knowledge and helped people learn more about agriculture.”

The park is named after William Hunt, who assumed the mortgage on the once-foreclosed property. After stating his intent to donate the holdings in 1937, Hunt died but his wishes were followed by his wife and heirs. The property was subsequently named in his honor.

Huffman read the summary of HCR 203 on the House floor before the Feb. 10 vote of affirmation. That text traced the history of the fair that moved in 1914 to the current site that was known as the “upper 40” and owned by William H. McAttee.

Farmers and merchants sold stock to be able to purchase the land so that it could become the Southern Wasco County Fairgrounds. However, after funds ran out for improvements and payment of taxes, the property was foreclosed upon.

Hunt, a member of the committee that met to reopen the fair, held a strong interest in promoting the welfare and education of children, especially through 4-H programs.

He decided to assume the mortgage and pay the back taxes so the fair could reopen. He also financed the construction of structures so 4-H and FFA (Future Farmers of America) youth could exhibit livestock, and provided their prize money.

Polehn said separate fairs in north and south Wasco County date back to 1869 but they were consolidated into one annual gathering by 1913.

More information on the history of the Wasco County Fair can be found on the county’s website, www.co.wasco.or.us, by following the Park/Fair Info link.

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