The time-honored traditions at the Jackson County fair face increased competition from growing technology.

Kids and adults alike experiment with rocket launchers and build their own space station at the ScienceWorks exhibit or watch the inaugural technology stunt show, performed by Project A President Jim Teece, demonstrating how technology affects life in Jackson County.

But the influence of gadgetry on the fair has pushed well past the tent flaps of the air-conditioned pavilion, and locals who attend the fair regularly said on Tuesday's opening day that the emphasis has shifted increasingly from farming to new-fangled fun.

Today, the fair is based around the carnival, said Diana Schneider, 19, who shows pigs every year at the fair.

"There's not a lot of animals left. People come to see animals, but not so much anymore."

Some of the "animals" have even gone high-tech, such as the mechanical bull Schneider helps operate during her free time.

The bull, just outside the technology pavilion, is usually swarmed with crowds of fairgoers, Schneider said, but Tuesday the bull was experiencing technical difficulties and received no attention.

Jake Fery, who is working on the Southern Oregon University student crew for Rogue Valley Community Television, said the agriculture exhibits were a far cry from the farm he grew up on near Salem.

"I think this is for the people that don't know anything about farming," he said. "It's more the entertainment side."

Traditional fun

Mark and Patty Michiels of Ashland said they have brought their family every year for the past 12 years to see the animals and visit with the students they bump into at the fair.

And although Patty Michiels lamented the loss of the Smoky the Bear exhibit, her kids were most excited about the short lines at the carnival on opening day, they said.

"I spend most of my time on the rides," said her daughter, Willie, 15.

Not every young fairgoer, however, was lured by attractions such as the Super Shot Drop Tower and Zillerator Coaster.

Kailey Cockell, 15, of Ashland, said she doesn't like the carnival rides and prefers to spend time with her horse, Finn, who she shows with the Freedom Riders club.

Although she works hard keeping her horse and his stall clean and worries about keeping not just herself but a large animal from getting parched in the heat, the week is well spent, she said. This year, she won a blue ribbon in dressage, an event that requires riders to execute one long, precise pattern on their horses.

"It's just fun to do something different for a whole week," she said.

Cockell's friend, Amanda Steele, 17, didn't show a horse this week because it was on loan at a summer camp, and although she prefers to hang out at the horse barn, she doesn't shun the rest of the entertainment the fair has to offer.

"I just enjoy watching the riders and members of our team improve year to year," she said. "It's cool to see all their hard work pay off."

And on second thought, she added, "The concerts are nice, too."

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or .