It is July and it is fair time. I was always a pretty active participant in the fair, bringing goods and winning ribbons was lots of fun. That was forty years ago. The fair has changed considerably in more recent times.
It is still the fair, but it is no long run by the county and therefore not a “county” fair. It is the Whidbey Island Fair run now by the Island County Port Commission.
During the transition from one system to another some important things were neglected, the major one being the booking of the carnival folks. We always had the fair around the middle of August when things were hot and dusty. Now the fair is the middle of July, much too early for an agricultural event.
What happened? When the port realized that they hadn’t booked the carnival, it wasn’t available and there weren’t any others available for the usual time frame, mid August. What to do? Well you need a carnival for the fair and the only one available was available way too early for an agricultural event. They booked it and moved the fair up a month.
What were the repercussions of this sad move? The carnival activities look ok, though this concessionaire is smaller and doesn’t have the usual Ferris wheel or roller coaster or hammer. The rides aren’t as exciting.
The biggest repercussion is the agriculture events. How many folks in Western Washington (night temps in the 50s) have corn ready to show at the fair? Only strawberries have ripened in time. You should see the examples of garlic, beans, and squash. Piddily. Most of the produce is just coming on and showing juvenile veggies is not what the fair is about. There were flowers, but they were early summer ones not late summer, a completely different collection than what we use to see. Folks can’t get inspired to show their wares if they are still immature.
Cattle, pigs, sheep are still somewhat under their usual August weights. Auctions bring in smaller dollar amounts. Horses are ready any time as are the chickens, rabbits, dogs, cats, and such.
When I first moved to the island and lived in a Clinton beach community, the local kids and I would go on walkabout and collect shells, sea glass, seed pods, driftwood, and rocks and work on project gluing these to plywood or larger driftwood to enter the kid’s crafts. It was fun and they treasured the ribbons given to them for their labors. Nowadays the kids are on computers or cell phones and don’t collect detritus from the beach to make beach collages. Too bad because the exhibit was painfully lacking in interesting material.
Photography seemed to be popular with hundreds of participants, but most were just snapshots without much concentration on creating a piece of art. The fine arts exhibition was beautiful with a variety of participants, but smaller than in past years.
The usual commercial exhibits didn’t show because the attendance wasn’t high enough—no vegamatic.
We usually go on the first day of the fair in order to see the flowers and vegetables and baked goods at their best, before the wilt and mold set in. Baking was poorly attended, but there were a goodly number of flowers. Vegetables were, and have been for all the years the fair has been in July, small, and severely lacking. It used to be my favorite department and I would always participate. Unfortunately, this year, the weather has not cooperated especially, with temps in the 50s at night and 60s during the day and rain to damage much of the goods.
My students produced an educational project that garnered a blue ribbon. I won two blues and a red. Many of my students achieved the blue ribbon and some the best of category. I am proud of them. The judge was fair and did write critiques for them to read about their work. It is good to compete as you put your best foot forward and work on painting harder. The rewards reinforce their attempts. Not everyone goes home happy, but most are happy. I will crack the whip next year to get them to compete again.
All in all, I enjoyed my work time at the fair (4 hours) as I got to see old friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen in years, many of whom I have know as long as I have lived here (almost fifty years) and one who I have known since high school. It becomes a reunion time. Some of the kids from the beach collage are parents and grandparents now. It is good to see their development. Some of the folks ask questions and one family had only lived here a week. They were really enthusiastic about the country fair never having been to a small, old fashioned one.
I had my Fisher Flour Mill scone which I have had at the fair as long as I have lived here. When I was a little kid we went to the Puyallup Fair, which is officially the Western Washington State Fair and had a scone at the Fisher booth. My sister and I would collect coupons off the flour sacks all year so we could each have a free scone with strawberry jam using the coupons. I am told the line is very long now, though I haven’t been to that fair in years, too commercial. We don’t get free ones any more, however.
Without a doubt I enjoyed myself and maybe I should work to make it a better event. We need to keep these small fairs going, they are dying out in America and they are really what the county or country fair is really about. You should seek them out and visit. They are truly a part of rural America.
PS: See my award on my website https://theruralgallery.com