Linn County Fair lineup includes ’80s rockers

The four-day Linn County Fair kicks off Thursday with a schedule packed with all kinds of entertainment and four major musical acts, including Joe Nichols, Bucky Covington, Night Ranger and Hawk Nelson.

“We’re still hoping for the best of the weather,” said Tim McQueary, chairman of the Fair Board, alluding to the overcast, cool weather over Sportsman’s Holiday weekend.

He said he is excited about the entertainment, he said, especially the response to Night Ranger in the Saturday night slot typically reserved for rock ‘n’ roll music and the new Christian music feature on Sunday.

Nichols has performed at the Oregon Jamboree in Sweet Home twice. He is scheduled to appear at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday on the Main Stage.

Western Underground, which played the Jamboree last year, is the band of the late Chris Ladoux. The band takes the Main Stage at 8:15 p.m. opening for Bucky Covington on Thursday. Covington placed eighth in the fifth season of “American Idol.”

“We’ve got Night Ranger on Saturday night,” McQueary said. “Ticket sales for Night Ranger just took off. That’s how we gauge whether we’re doing all right.”

Members of the Lebanon High School Class of 1984 discovered the band was on the bill and started buying up tickets early, McQueary said.

The hard rock outfit had numerous hits in the 1980s, including “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me,” “Sister Christian,” “You Can Still Rock in America,” “Goodbye,” “Sentimental Street,” “Four in the Morning,” and “The Secret of My Success.”

Singer and bass player Jack Blades later hit the charts with the Damn Yankees supergroup, which also included Tommy Shaw of Styx and Ted Nugent performing “Coming of Age,” “High Enough,” “Come Again” and Where You Goin’ Now.” He also has recorded two albums with Shaw, including “Hallucination” and the single “My Hallucination” in 1995.

The band is touring with Journey through September. Night Ranger released its latest album, “Hole in the Sun,” in the United States in 2008.

Night Ranger hits the Main Stage at 8:30 p.m.

Jonny Diaz will open at 6 p.m. on Sunday followed by Hawk Nelson at 6:30 p.m.

“That’s something new,” McQueary said. “We thought we’d try to Christian type entertainment this year. We’ve been trying to find something to bring the crowds out on Sunday.”

The Linn County Fair also has set aside a covered tent for Sunday services for anyone interested in having them at the fair, he said. No one has taken the fair up on it yet, but officials are hopeful it will catch on for Sundays.

“Overall, I think things are going very well,” McQueary said Friday. “I was over there today, and I think we’re in great shape.”

Participation in livestock, 4-H and FFA events are looking good, he said. The canning and textile exhibitions have been moved to the main building’s conference rooms to expand the tractor show, sponsored by Barenbrug, by five to 15 antique tractors. Linn County also will display an antique Bush automobile, a vehicle manufactured from 1916 to 1924.

On Friday, July 17, Boys and Girls Club members from Lebanon, Sweet Home, and Albany can get in free with a paying adult by presenting their club cards.

Activities for children include Family Land, which features fun zoos and pony rides, the carnival and the Family Stage, where trick pony riders, musicians and Mother Goose will appear.

Events will include several rodeo-style events, including team roping on Sunday morning, mutton bustin’ Saturday night, draft horses from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday and bull riding Friday night before the concert.

“We’ll still have our walk around and community style acts,” McQueary said. “I think we’ve got a lot of good ones.”

One returning entertainer is Skip Banks, the Balloon Man, he said. During Banks’ show, he crawls inside a balloon.

“It’s really fun to watch that one,” McQueary said.

Banks performs at various times throughout the week.

The KRKT Country Music Showdown will be held at 11 a.m. on Sunday. Winning contestants move on to the state level.

“It’s a place to come and have fun,” McQueary said. “You don’t have to travel far to do it.”

Right now, officials are hearing that people are not traveling far for vacations and are staying close to home for entertainment, he said, so they are optimistic about the 2009 fair.

McQueary, a native Sweet Home resident, said he would like to see more participation from the east end of the county and encourages folks from the Sweet Home area to attend.

“It’s Linn County’s fair,” he said. “It belongs to all of us.”