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Time for the fair: Rooted in agriculture

Aug 1st, 2018 | Category: Features

by Sarah Eden Wallace

We all love the dizzy and delicious fun of the demolition derby and deep-fried Oreos, the midway and Moo-Wiches, concerts and curly fries. But a remarkable amount of learning will also take place at the Northwest Washington Fair Aug. 13-18 in Lynden.

Just walking through the barns you’ll discover fascinating facts. Pigs gestate for three months, three weeks and three days. Cows produce about 10 gallons of milk per day. Both male and female pigeons sit on their eggs. Sheep only have lower teeth. Draft horses measure about 18 hands – six feet! – at the withers, where the neck joins the body.

Indeed, the fair is steeped in history and learning, down to the bones of its buildings. The Farming for Life! displays were crafted in 2002 using boards salvaged from the barn of Andrew and Adria DeHaan, who farmed on the Benson Road in Lynden. The tin on many of the panels comes from farmer Don Plagerman’s old barn roof.

For over 100 years the Northwest Washington Fair has highlighted the agriculture of the Whatcom County area. Dairy and beef cattle, horses, and many other species of livestock are shown by 4H, FFA and Open Class exhibitors. Enjoy the hundreds of exhibits featuring baked goods, canning, flowers and fresh produce grown locally, and more. PHOTO BY SARAH EDEN WALLACE

For over 100 years the Northwest Washington Fair has highlighted the agriculture of the Whatcom County area. Dairy and beef cattle, horses, and many other species of livestock are shown by 4H, FFA and Open Class exhibitors. Enjoy the hundreds of exhibits featuring baked goods, canning, flowers and fresh produce grown locally, and more. PHOTO BY SARAH EDEN WALLACE

The fair’s devotion to that kind of resourcefulness has led to education taking an even more prominent place. This fall, said fair manager Jim Baron, the fair will break ground on an agricultural education center. It will be anchored by Washington State University’s Extension Service with offices, a learning center and a research laboratory. Backed by $1.8 million in state funding and local support, it will offer exhibits year round at its site just to the east of the Expo Building on the fairgrounds.

Don’t worry, Twister the Cow, the life-size bovine statue that lets kids try “milking,” isn’t going anywhere. Baron explained an updated version of the much-loved star of the fair’s Ag Adventures Center and Farming for Life! will become part of the new center.

When it was founded in 1911, the fair’s mission was to support and showcase local farming. That tradition endures today, embodied in its 2018 slogan “Rooted in agriculture.” Farmers would be the first to tell you they learn a lot at every fair, no matter how long they’ve been showing.

Long-time dairyman Sherm Polinder recalled that his father, Henry, started dairying in Whatcom County in 1940, back when “we did all our work with draft horses.” At the fair, Polinder said, “you learn by doing. Showing cows and heifers, the good part of that is you learn to stand on both ends of the class. Sometimes you’re first, sometimes you’re last, sometimes you’re in between, but that’s good training for life.”

Retired veterinarian Sandra Matheson of Bellingham can attest to “both ends” of showing at the fair.  In “100 Years at the Northwest Washington Fair,” she recounts showing a Hereford cow named Yodel as a teen. It was definitely a learning experience. First thing Yodel did was kick the judge. Then she took off climbing up the viewing stands as panicked bystanders leaped from the bleachers. “They didn’t get her stopped till she had all four feet on the seats,” Matheson ruefully recalled. Though mortified, Matheson showed again the next year … and won grand champion.

Of course, the fair packs in plenty of fun, too. This year, the fair is offering a new ride carnival with bigger rides, says Baron. The kids’ carnival will be moved closer to the big carnival and the old kiddie-ride area will be used for parking. Inside tip: Save $5 by buying your ride wristband online on the fair’s website for $33 (same price for both kids and adults) before you head to Lynden.

Whether you go for the entertainment or education, the Northwest Washington Fair celebrates the special spirit of family farming in Whatcom County.

Sarah Eden Wallace is the author of “100 Years at the Northwest Washington Fair,” available at Village Books and the fair office, and writes about the fair and local farming at BlueRibbonStories.com: Harvesting Whatcom County Fair, Farm and Food Heritage.

 

Have fun at the fair

Enjoy the fairs in our northwest corner this month!

Northwest Washington Fair: Monday through Saturday, Aug. 13-18. Food, rodeo, demolition derby, music, grandstand entertainment, contests, carnival rides, animal exhibits, 4H and FFA exhibits, and more. Northwest Washington Fairgrounds, 1775 Front Street Lynden. For complete schedule and admission prices, see nwwafair.com. Follow the Facebook page for updates. Questions? Call 360-354-4111.

Stanwood-Camano Community Fair: Friday through Sunday, Aug. 3-5. The “Best Lil Fair in the West” is one of the largest community fairs in Washington State which showcases the Stanwood-Camano Community’s past, present and future. Enjoy exhibits, entertainment and carnival. Adults $10, seniors and children $7, under 5 free. 6431 Pioneer Hwy., Stanwood. See www.stanwoodcamanofair.org. Questions? Call 360-629-4121.

Skagit County Fair: Wednesday through Saturday, Aug. 8-11. Food, live music, animals, fun, rides, tractor show, car show, square dance, and more. Meet local and community organizations at booths. Skagit County Fairgrounds, 479 W. Taylor Street, Mount Vernon. For schedule and admission prices, see www.skagitcounty.net/fair. Follow the Facebook page for updates. Questions? Call 360-336-9414.

San Juan County Fair: Wednesday through Saturday, Aug. 15-18. Entertainers, musicians, exhibits, demonstrations, scarecrow contest, food and more. San Juan County Fair & Fairgrounds, 849A Argyle Ave, Friday Harbor. For schedule and admission prices, see www.sjcfair.org.

Evergreen State Fair: Aug. 23-Sept. 3. Concerts, carnival, pig races, animal exhibits, contests, lumberjack shows, auto races, rodeo, aztec dancers, muscle cars and more. 14405 179th Ave SE, Monroe. See www.evergreenfair.org for a full schedule. Follow the Facebook page for updates. Questions? Call (360) 805-6704.

–Grow Northwest

 

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