Longtime Umatilla County Fair volunteers Mel and Jerrie Keely will serve as grand marshals for the 2024 event. The announcement came Saturday, Jan. 27, during the annual Fair Appreciation Dinner at the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center, Hermiston.
Over the years, the Hermiston couple has been involved with FFA and 4-H. In addition, Mel served on the fair board for 10 years.
In a press release, Fair Manager Angie McNalley said the Keelys maintain a “permanent presence” in the fair barns. In addition, she said they pitch in where help is needed, whether it’s driving a tractor or cutting up watermelons for the seed-spitting contest.
“Their years of community involvement continues with their grandkids because their fair dedication is something that they have passed along and something that they cherish and share with their entire family,” McNalley said. “You have probably seen them working in the heat with one or two of their grandkids hanging sponsor banners on the fences before the fair, or maybe taking them down afterwards.”
Volunteers of the year
The fair board also recognized Mike Cutburth and Kris Bennett as the male and female volunteers of the year. Emcee Marty Campbell shared about each of their contributions, referring to Cutburth as a “quiet leader” and Bennett as having “exceptional organizational skills.”
“You don’t usually hear him, but you always see him on the fairgrounds or representing the Fair at a parade somewhere in the county throughout the year,” Campbell said about Cutburth.
Bennett, he said, brings event-hosting abilities, which improves the “hospitality experience for the Fair Board’s special guests during the fair.”
Business partnership award
In addition to sponsorship over the years, Campbell said Rogers Toyota of Hermiston fosters a culture of volunteerism with its employees. He said all it takes is an email, a text or a phone call to General Manager Glenn Silaski to help meet the needs of the fair.
Campbell noted Rogers Toyota stepped up in 2020, providing financial support for the Youth Livestock Auction — even when the rest of the fair was shut down because of the global pandemic. In addition, the dealership has provided vehicles to escort dignitaries during the UCF Kick-off Parade and for transporting stage entertainers and performers.
Special fair board recognition
Calling the Hermiston Rotary Club “a special group of people,” Campbell said the fair board was recognizing the service club for its partnership that has spanned more years than anyone can remember. Its members, he said, have spent countless hours in the summer heat scanning and selling admission tickets.
“Your members have endured the fair’s challenges and your support and integrity have not wavered through many years of change,” Campbell said during the award presentation.”
“A Blue Ribbon Future”
The 2024 Umatilla County fair is Aug. 7-10 at EOTEC. The theme, “A Blue Ribbon Future,” will be evident with the barn expansion project, which McNalley said, will break ground next week.
The bulk of the project, she said, will be funded by grant money secured through the efforts of the Umatilla County Board of Commissioners, the city of Hermiston, Rep. Greg Smith, the Oregon Fairs Association and Business Oregon.
In addition, 2024 will feature a new route during the kick-off parade. The fair board worked in conjunction with the Hermiston Police Department for increased safety during the event. For more information, search rebrand.ly/p0mselv.
The 2024 fair court features princesses Katherine “Katie” Hennings, Cheyanne Lancaster, Catherine “Cate” Doherty and Hailey Loiland They will be under the leadership of Rebecca Manning, chaperone since 2020, and a newly added assistant chaperone, Jessica Cutburth.
For more about the Umatilla County Fair, visit www.umatillacountyfair.net.