REDMOND, OR -- Fresh off complaints about massive traffic jams after the FairWell Festival, the Deschutes County Fairgrounds is preparing for a slightly smaller crowd when the fair opens Wednesday.
Director Geoff Hinds acknowledges the location of the fairgrounds makes traffic flows tricky during big events, "There are some constraints, just because of the design of the roadways we have to utilize to get people in and out. But I think we do a tremendous job flowing people past those constraints as quickly as possible."
He tells KBND News the traffic team - made up of the fair, county road department, Redmond Police and others - has put a big effort into relieving congestion on Airport Way over the past two years. "It was one of those things that just continued to grow, and grow out of control in prior years. So, starting in 2021, when we reopened after COVID, we made it the most important initiative we’ve worked on in order to manage those traffic strategies, in order to get people not only here but also back home as quickly as possible." Hinds believes it's working, "Those multi-hour long waits that we saw during fair in the past, really have been reduced significantly." He says last year's delays were closer to 30 or 45 minutes.
The busiest time is 4-6:30 p.m., as people come to the fair after work. "We’re employing flaggers and parking staff to get vehicles into the parking lots and parked as quickly as possible," says Hinds. After the nightly headliner concert is also expected to remain busy, as throngs of attendees try to leave at once. Hinds says managed trafic flows will return, "We include road closures, in order to do one-directional traffic, in order to expedite traffic back onto Highway 97 and/or into Redmond."
Hinds suggests concert-goers find activities to enjoy afterwards, like the new nightly drone light show. He says you’ll probably get home around the same time as those who sit in the line of cars, "When the concert ends, there’s so many other things to continue to do, and it allows us to measure out that exiting."
If you’re looking for the smallest crowds, arrive early on a weekday. The 103rd Deschutes County Fair runs Wednesday through Sunday and opens at 11 a.m. each day.