SOUNDOFF Fair needs North Whidbey folks

2002 marks the 78th year the Island County Fair has been in existence, although it dates back to 1895. The war years took a toll on the fair as well as the nation and there were a few non-celebratory years.

The county fairgrounds in Langley is admittedly a long drive for someone living north of Coupeville, but there are daily commuters who make longer trips — to and from Boeing, Camano Island or metropolitan Seattle.

Once a year in August, about 25,000 people from all parts of the county flock to the fair. Anywhere you look, the fairgrounds is a flurry of activity. Campgrounds filled with 4-Hers and their families, barns overflowing with animals, exhibit halls stuffed with all types of produce, art and hobbies. A midway packed with thrillseekers, folks watching the entertainment on stage or strolling around visiting with friends. And food galore.

You’ve been there, or somewhere like it. You know the united sense of community, fun, laughter and recognition fairs generate.

What you might not know is that the entire fair is presented through the year-round efforts of volunteers, except for a tiny part-time staff. Every department superintendent and steward is a volunteer, the ticket sellers and takers are volunteers, the 4-H club leaders and fair association directors are volunteers.

In September, when the fairgrounds fall silent, planning is in progress for the following year. The state fairs convention is in October, and planning continues throughout the year. Our commitment to improve the fair every year and enhance the fairgrounds rests on the commitment of our volunteers.

Of 12 possible board positions, seven are allocated by school district geographic boundaries: one to Camano Island, two to Oak Harbor, two to Coupeville and two to South Whidbey.

Camano Island presently has no board representation, Cheri Reichle is the lone Oak Harbor volunteer, Gary Fisher and Sandey Brandon act for Coupeville, and Raymond Gabelein, Sr. and Ralph Nakamura are the South Whidbey delegates. The remaining board members are Ruth Turner, Jim Eakin, Lynda Knapp, Linda Alexander and Marilyn Gabelein.

Speaking from personal experience, preparing for the fair is a lot of fun. A lot of work, granted, but a lot of fun. The Fair Association needs manpower, and its workforce is top-heavy with people from the Southend. We would love to welcome folks interested in putting on the best old-fashioned county fair to our association, to our meetings and to our board. In fact, not only would we be delighted to have them, we need them, as diversity is critical to our success in such a diverse county.

Both the board and the association only meet once a month, on the second and third Mondays respectively. Association dues are just $5 per year. There must be someone from the largest city on the island who wants to participate in the fair.

Whoever you are, we want you!

Sandey Brandon is an Island County Fair Association board member who lives in Coupeville. For more information, visit the fair’s Web site at www.islandweb.org/fair, call the fair office at (360)221-4677 or call Brandon at 678-2284.

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