High temperatures in Langley did not discourage fairgoers from having a blast under the blazing sun during the opening day of this year’s Whidbey Island Fair.
The sight of haphazardly parked cars, the smell of fried food and the sound of carnival rides clanking to life were just a few of the signs of the return of the much-anticipated fair that rolls through South Whidbey only once a year.
In the cool shade of the barns, kids belonging to the local 4-H club readied their goats, cows, horses, pigs, chickens, rabbits, cats and dogs for their various competitions.
Nadeea Forbes, 19, is showing twin miniature Saanen goats Dandelion and Clover. Dandelion is a pack goat who prefers going on trails and maneuvering around obstacles. Clover, on the other hand, doesn’t.
“A lot of training goats is figuring out when the goat is just going to say no,” Forbes said.
The duo was adopted from a rescue at 6 months old and have since gone on to be state and grand champions. At the Whidbey Island Fair, they will be shown as a pair.
Cadence Smith, 15, also competes at other fairs around the state.
“There’s not too much competition here as at some bigger shows, but it’s still nice for me to come here, learn from judges,” she said.
She shows market beef, showmanship steers, dairy cows and swine at the Whidbey Island Fair.
Her jersey milk cows are family pets. The steers, however, are auctioned off to be butchered.
“As soon as you get your steer that you’re using for the year after, it’s a little easier to cope,” Smith said of raising animals for auction. “I try not to see it as I’m getting rid of an animal but my animal’s helping me to build my college funds so I can go to school and have my dream job when I’m older.”
Smith has participated in 4-H for seven years.
“It definitely makes you step outside your comfort zone and helps you to definitely talk to the public,” she said.
Over in the pole building, kids fashioned critters out of fruits and veggies. Master Gardeners showed off their displays of plants. Art projects by kids and adults awaited judgment by visitors to the exhibit who submitted votes for their top choices.
Colorful ribbons adorned photos submitted for a photography competition in another building. Gregg Dailey was proud of the blue first-place ribbon he won for the photo he took of his collection of Mariners bobbleheads.
“Gregg’s a big competitor. He loves to get awards,” said his niece, Erin Kelly. “He’s got more awards than Mark Spitz, I’ll tell you that right now.”
Out on the midway, jugglers, giant bubble-blowers and other entertainers competed for attention with bands performing on the main stage.
Juggler Wren Schultz, who performs on stilts, said this was his first time back at the Whidbey Island Fair since 2019.
He and his partner, Della Plaster, were always a duo act of juggling, circus and comedy. She was killed by a drunk driver in 2020.
“It’s kind of hard being back on the scene but I’m happy to be back here and I appreciate that people remember her,” Schultz said.
Around noon on opening day, the carnival rides finally jolted to life. Stuffed prizes begged to be won at the game booths.
Vendors offered brightly colored clothing, custom-made signs and just about every kind of food or drink available.