10 things you may not know about the Oregon State Fair

10 things you may not know about the Oregon State Fair
Photo courtesy PhotoAtelier on Flickr (Creative Commons).

SALEM, Ore. - The deep-fried treats... the high-flying rides... the sweet smell of cotton candy... the blue ribbons - it's all starting soon at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem.

The Oregon State Fair kicks off on Friday, August 23.

Some of this year's features include wacky competitions (like watermelon seed spitting and a pie eating contest), a huge Toytopia exhibit showcasing games and toys throughout the decades, the ever-popular dock dog competition and the chance to meet rodeo royalty.

And this year you can take the Oregon State Fair with you with the My Event Experience app, which gives you access to fair maps, attractions, vendors and schedules on your iPhone or Android phone.

The state fair has been around for a long time here in Oregon. Did you know that the first one was held in 1861 on four acres of property along the Clackamas River in the Gladstone/Oregon City area? Here are 10 more fun facts:

#1 Hypnotism wasn't always allowed at the fair

Hypnotists could not perform a public show in Oregon until 2000 (when a law was changed).

#2 An escaped steer named Rufus ended up becoming a state fair mascot

On opening day in 1979, a steer named Rufus escaped from his handlers, swam the Willamette River and found his way to a cornfield where he stayed for six weeks. Rufus became the fair's mascot and was displayed (behind reinforced fencing) from 1980 to 1987. The steer was euthanized in early 1988 after he injured his leg.

#3 The state fair has a time capsule that will be opened on August 29, 2065

Former Oregon Governor Mark. O. Hatfield placed it there on August 29, 1965 to commemorate the fair's 100th anniversary. You can find it in front of Cascade Hall, a few feet north of the east-side entrance.

#4 Beer was sold for the first time in 1971

Beer sales had previously been approved in 1952, but the decision was quickly rescinded when church groups protested the idea of serving liquor at an event that attracted the young.

#5 Gambling was a huge problem in 1932

That year, gamblers supposedly made more than $15,000 at the fair. Salem's police chief stepped in and 30 games were shut down.

#6 John F. Kennedy once campaigned for president at the state fair

In 1960, John F. Kennedy (who was a Massachusetts senator at the time) brought his presidential campaign to the state fair.

#7 Major technological advances were introduced to the public at the state fair

In 1877, fair-goers got their first look at two new inventions - Thomas Edison's phonograph and Alexander Graham Bell's telephone. The first automobile display was in 1904 and the first 'flying machine' came in 1910 (six years after Orville and Wilbur Wright made their historic first flights). In 1961, folks got a close-up look at space age technology when a 90-foot Titan missile was brought to the fair. And atomic energy was displayed at the fair in 1965.

#8 The state fair was shut down for a few years during WWII

The state fair did not take place in 1943 and 1944 because several branches of the military had leased the fairgrounds to house their personnel. What about 1942? That's up for debate. Some say the state fair took place on a limited scale while other accounts note that it didn't take place at all. Either way, 1942 is not considered an official state fair year.

#9 The state fair didn't always run on Sundays

The state fair took place for the first time on a Sunday in 1927. Horse racing was forbidden by the state so for many years vaudeville acts entertained the crowd and ministers preached to fill the void.

#10 There have been two arsons at the state fair

A raging fire destroyed two buildings at the state fair in 1967. A mental patient who had been working in one of the buildings was arrested and charged with arson. He pleaded innocent by reason of insanity, but the plea was rejected and he was sent back to the mental hospital. In 1989, three young girls set a fire at the fair that destroyed a beef barn.