This article originally appeared in the 2022 Tillamook Living Magazine. It has been republished here to honor the Tillamook County Fairgrounds’ 40th anniversary as a member of the Tillamook Chamber of Commerce.
by Mallory Gruben
When it comes to county fairs, Tillamook hits above its weight class.
The Tillamook County Fair draws in roughly 70,000 visitors every year, and judges for the exhibits say the departments are some of the largest they have judged, said Tillamook County Fair Manager Camy VonSeggern.
Tillamook’s is one of four fairs in Oregon with live pari-mutuel horse racing and is the only fair in the country to host Pig ‘n’ Ford races. During the four-day event, not a single square inch of the 63-acre fairgrounds goes unused.
“One of the comments I hear from fellow fair managers is that our daytime activities are really plentiful,” VonSeggern said. “There is just so much to do, whether it’s entertainment on the main stage, the barns full of animals, vendors outside, the carnival or our exhibits.”
But the most special part of the Tillamook County Fair is how its old-fashioned, hometown feel remains intact, VonSeggern said. Despite all the grandeur and excitement of the activities, the fair hasn’t turned into a big exposition center for the sake of profit-turning.
“We are keeping our traditions. We are still the hometown fair where you come to show off to the rest of the county what it is you do or grow or raise,” VonSeggern said. “There’s a sense of pride in carrying on those traditions.”
Local volunteers readily donate their time, money and services to maintain the fairgrounds and support fair staff. Generation after generation of local families attend, often coordinating family reunions with the fair, so relatives can return “home” to Tillamook to celebrate.
“The Tillamook County Fair is not just a place for exhibits and activities. It’s a place where community members gather to tell stories and make memories together,” VonSeggern said. “That’s one of the things that probably makes me proudest about our fair.”