Gary Gabelein, this year’s grand marshal of the Whidbey Island Fair parade, with his donkey, Cleopatra. (Photo by Kira Erickson/Whidbey News-Times)

Gary Gabelein, this year’s grand marshal of the Whidbey Island Fair parade, with his donkey, Cleopatra. (Photo by Kira Erickson/Whidbey News-Times)

Longtime fair volunteer, community member chosen as this year’s grand marshal

Gary Gabelein has a long history of involvement with the Whidbey Island Fair.

Gary Gabelein has a long history of involvement with the Whidbey Island Fair.

As a kid, he showed and competed with his horse, Sandy, for 10 years as part of 4-H. He also helped with the barnyard scramble, calf scramble and cow milking contests.

As an adult, he was a member of the construction crew that built the fair’s current horse barns and volunteered at the fairgrounds first-aid station when he was a firefighter.

He and his wife, Janie, even got engaged over 50 years ago at the fair when it was known as the Island County Fair.

So it seems fitting that Gabelein is the grand marshal for the parade at this year’s Whidbey Island Fair.

“My mom and dad were grand marshals when they were doing things in the fair,” Gabelein said of his parents, Eva Mae and Raymond Gabelein. “I’m getting my turn now.”

Currently, Gary Gabelein is the superintendent of the Antique Barn, a fairgrounds building that displays farm equipment used by Whidbey Island farmers of a bygone era. He also has been the chairperson of the Fairgrounds Advisory Committee.

In addition, he has served on the Island County Tourism Committee. He and his wife ran a bed and breakfast for several years in Clinton. The couple is known for their well-kept garden, which has been part of many garden tours in the past.

A highlight for Gabelein is getting to drive his vintage 1951 fire truck, which he loads up with Whidbey children, in the fair parade.

This year, he will be leading the parade, which starts at 10 a.m. Saturday in the parking lot of the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts. The route is not as expansive as in years past — instead of going downtown, it will head directly to the fairgrounds from WICA.

“I bought it for $800,” he said of the fire truck, which has become a regular fixture in many parades around Whidbey.

Gary Gabelein, this year’s grand marshal of the Whidbey Island Fair parade, sits atop his 1951 fire engine. (Photo by Kira Erickson/Whidbey News-Times)

Gary Gabelein, this year’s grand marshal of the Whidbey Island Fair parade, sits atop his 1951 fire engine. (Photo by Kira Erickson/Whidbey News-Times)

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