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Island County Fairground gates open today

Skyler McKee, 16, puts hogs through their paces Wednesday evening at the Island County Fairgrounds. Doing the same at left is Cajah Mendilla. Members of the Whidbey Island Hogs 4-H Club has representatives from all over the island.  - Jim Larsen/Whidbey News-Times
Skyler McKee, 16, puts hogs through their paces Wednesday evening at the Island County Fairgrounds. Doing the same at left is Cajah Mendilla. Members of the Whidbey Island Hogs 4-H Club has representatives from all over the island.
— image credit: Jim Larsen/Whidbey News-Times

The Island County Fair opens today in Langley and its animal-centric offerings continue through Sunday evening.

The fair is much more than animals, of course, but horses cows, sheep, llamas, alpacas, rabbits, chickens, hogs, ducks, turkeys, cats, dogs and other critters give it its flavor, and provide a reason for scores of 4-H youngsters to spend hours and days at the fair, grooming their animals for competition and explaining the care and feeding of animals to fair-goers.

Soureya Hetzel, 15, of the Coupeville Cossacks 4-H Club, had her horse Jade safely tucked away in its stall Wednesday evening as the fairgrounds was busy with people getting ready for Thursday's crowds.

Hetzel had high hopes for this year's horse competition. Last year, Jade was a grand champion. "I'm hoping to take English champion again, but I went from intermediate to senior, and that's the hardest," she said.

The animal barns look different this year because the floors are not covered in wood shavings. "We're going green," said Laurrin Bates, 16, of the Whidbey Lone Stars. She was on barn duty and said the dirt floors will reduce the amount of waste hauled out of the barns, and the animal waste will be easier to deal with.

Over on the Midway where food booths and entertainment enthrall fair-goers, Alena Stapel was hanging a banner across the booth operated by culinary students at Oak Harbor High School. They'll be selling watermelon and cool drinks to raise money for those going on to culinary school.

Workers were busy Wednesday finishing the roofing on the new main entry gate, which looks like you're entering a big barn. The aluminum stands facing the Eva Mae Gabelein Stage are now covered, providing protection from raindrops.

Beginning at 9:30 a.m. and extending through to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, entertainers are expected to rock, sway, amuse and delight.

On the Eva Mae Gabelein Stage, Danny Ward kicks things off, followed by Buck & Elizabeth, Island Strings, the African Allstars, Silhouettes, Locust Street Taxi, Kontagious Movement, Kevin Wolfe and Nathan Chance.

On Friday, fairgoers can check out Erik Christensen, One World Taiko, Hot Shot Tap Dancers, Stan Boreson, Hejira, Carrie Cunningham, The Magic of Sterling Dietz and — a fair favorite — the Danny Vernon “Illusion of Elvis” show.

Whidbey Island mainstays Janie & Joe will be featured on Saturday, followed by Ken Emerson, JP Patches, Swords Into Plowshares, game show host Vince Vandervander, Tiller’s Folly and The Timebenders.

Meanwhile, at the Pole Building Stage on Thursday, the Whidbey Children’s Theater presents “Nickelodeon,” and Ciscoe Morris gives gardening tips.

On Friday, Ed Hume will be followed by the Route 66 big band and, at 6 p.m. 4-H Performing Arts.

The annual Fair Parade through downtown Langley starts at 10 a.m. Saturday with Oak Harbor veterinarian Dr. Kent Freer as grand marshal.

Fair gates open at 9:30 a.m. each day. Exhibits are open until 10 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and to 7 p.m. on Sunday. Adult admission is $7 per day. For information visit www.islandcountyfair.com.

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