I am writing this in response to Kira Erickson’s article May 13, 2023 “Impasse puts Whidbey Island fair in jeopardy.”
It is a fact that the Port of South Whidbey will no longer require Bekah Bee Music or Vibrant Fitness to entirely vacate the Burrier building during the Whidbey Island County Fair this year, as they have in the past.
Those two tenants are now only required to cease business operations during fair set-up, operation and take-down unless they are somehow part of fair activities.
It is also a fact that Whidbey Island Grown Cooperative will now take over a significant percentage of the Malone building all year, with no withdrawal during fair operation.
Nineteen of 21 open divisions of non-animal exhibitions have historically been held in those two buildings and now will be required to find other space.
I have photographed the fair since 2005, and have in my files over 30,000 exposures of the fair from every corner of the fairgrounds, from east to west and north to south. These images document that every square inch of the fairgrounds is utilized by the Fair Association for the duration of the fair.
I have read and heard that some say there are plenty of empty buildings and unused space for the displaced exhibitors to migrate to.
This is absolutely false information.
The port’s decision hogties the fair management’s ability to produce a quality event. Many exhibitors will be unable to participate and may not have any reason to visit the fair. Fair attendance will decline.
After much thought, investigation and consideration, I have decided that I will not contribute or participate in the Industrial Art Gallery in the Pole building for the Langley Art Walk of June 3, 2023, or allow my framed photographs to remain for the fall of 2023. It seems hypocritical of the Port of South Whidbey to celebrate the fair that the commissioners and executives may destroy.
I cannot in good conscience do anything that could be misconstrued for support of the Port of South Whidbey’s decision regarding the use of the Malone and Burrier buildings by the Whidbey Island Fair Association.
I understand the need to make the fairgrounds profitable, but this decision is the wrong decision, unless the port’s motivation was to put an end to the fair, in which case it was the right decision. It is time to go back to the drawing board and devise another plan that will not terminate a valued Whidbey Island tradition.
Editor’s note: David Welton is a freelance photographer for the South Whidbey Record and Whidbey News-Times.