Negotiations continue about fate of fair

Plans for the Whidbey Island Fair are still up in the air as negotiations continue.

Plans for the Whidbey Island Fair are still up in the air, as negotiations continue between the fair association and Port of South Whidbey officials.

The Malone and Burrier buildings on the fairgrounds have historically been used by open-class, all-ages exhibits, such as quilting, sewing, floral arrangements, canning and baked goods, as well as agricultural displays by community organizations. But this year the port, which owns the fairgrounds, presented the fair association with a lease that excluded the full use of the two buildings. The port had decided not to ask the long-term tenants who occupy the buildings to vacate during the fair, which has been the norm in the past.

As a result, the displaced exhibits and displays have put planning for the fair on hold. The lease agreement was presented to the fair association on March 31, just four months before the start of the fair.

The year-round building tenants, if they choose, are allowed to sublet their space during the fair. The fair association has not approached the tenants about this option.

Some have argued that the port is violating its interlocal agreement with the county, which includes a provision that the port must “secure the future use of the property for Island County 4-H and an agricultural fair without placing an unreasonable financial burden on the Island County 4-H programs or the Island County Fair Association’s annual fair.”

Yet Island County Administrator Michael Jones told the commissioners during a meeting last week that the county likely does not have the authority to do anything in this situation.

On Monday, members of the fair association and officials from the port met to discuss what can be done. Staff from Washington State University Extension of Island County served as mediators of the lengthy discussion. The mediators agreed to ask the tenants in the fair buildings if they would be interested in vacating.

The fair board is awaiting a response from the mediators before making a final decision on whether or not to have the Whidbey Island Fair this year.