As temperatures ascend into triple digits as they do every year for the Jackson County Fair, fairgoers will have a new means of staying cool: chartered motor coaches equipped with air conditioning and reclining seats.




The coaches will shuttle residents to the fairgrounds from the parking lots at Crater High School and Food 4 Less.




The tour buses, made available through a contract with Rogue Valley Charter Services, are just one of the new things going on at this year's fair, which runs Tuesday through Sunday, July 17-22, at the Fairgrounds and Expo Park in Central Point.




The shift from yellow school buses to motor coaches is to ensure that attendees enjoy all aspects of the event, according to fair director Chris Borovansky.




The shuttles run every half hour beginning at 10:30 a.m. and continue until midnight Tuesday through Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday.




"We want to make sure the people that are using the service are as comfortable as possible," he said.




Also new this year is Water Wars, a game that allows its participants to launch balloons at one another while hiding behind battle stations.




"It's kind of the water equivalent of laser tag," Borovansky said.




Three rides have worked their way into the Butler Amusements Inc. lineup for this summer's fair, including the "Super Shop Drop Tower," which will send riders on a free fall into G-forces that exceed normal rates by more than three and a half times. The "Mini Tea Cup" sits four people in each of six cups, with a wheel in the middle that allows the passengers to control the speed. And the "Jump Around" is a dune buggy-esque vehicle with a one-of-a-kind, patent-pending, interactive bouncing motion.




Borovansky said the Drop Tower "is kind of like the Tower of Terror (at Disneyland)."




Music headliners will take the stage each night at 8 p.m. beginning with Lynyrd Skynyrd on opening night, July 17. Back-to-back country acts will follow, with Josh Gracin and Phil Vassar sharing the stage on Wednesday, July 18, and Gretchen Wilson performing Thursday, July 19.




Local bands are set to compete on the amphitheater's main stage Friday, July 20, as part of the inaugural "Fairapalooza." Six bands will start the competition by performing one song each. Judges will then select the top two performers to sing three additional songs before choosing a winner. The grand prize is $3,000, while the runner-up will take home the consolation prize of $2,000.




Joan Jett and the Blackhearts are scheduled to perform on Saturday, July 21.




The Lynyrd Skynyrd and Gretchen Wilson shows will be fully ticketed and cost $42 for reserved seating and $29 for the lawn. The Josh Gracin and Phil Vassar and Joan Jett performances are free with admission for lawn seating, but cost $25 for reserved.




Admission to the fair is included in the cost of purchased tickets and the Fairapalooza show is free with paid admission.




Borovansky said the addition of the Lithia Motors Amphitheater has made the shows more of a complete concert experience and enabled the fair to attract better acts.




"We wanted to do some big shows with some of the best national talent for the concertgoer, while also making sure we still have some great concerts where we could open up the lawn free for all to enjoy," Borovansky said in a press release.




The second largest junior livestock auction on the West Coast runs throughout the week with cattle, pigs and goats taking center stage. The animals have been raised by members of 4-H and FFA and will be shown, judged and then auctioned off. The swine and poultry auction is scheduled for Wednesday, July 18, and the beef and goats will get their turn on Saturday, July 21.




A professional motocross event will fill the Isola Arena on Saturday, before yielding to local riders Sunday.




Daily attractions include carnival rides, the Qwest Technology Pavilion, and 130 vendors in the buyer's marketplace selling goods that range from posters to jewelry to power tools. The food court will feature fair favorites such as elephant ears, cotton candy and curly fries, as well as barbecue, Thai and Mexican dishes.




Reach intern Bob Albrecht at 776-8791 or e-mail intern1@mailtribune.com.