The Fair Flash
News, views and more from this year's Island County Fair
Plenty of cute children were at Island County Fair this year.
Clean one horse. Squirt, wipe, shine. Then another. Squirt, wipe, shine. Then another.
Dave Paxton moved from horse to horse. Squirt, wipe, shine.
No, Paxton wasn’t some 4-H newbie stuck in the stables. He is a worker with Paradise Amusements, and was spending Thursday morning helping other employees of the carnival company clean the merry-go-round.
He had plenty of work ahead of him. The merry-go-round, built in 1947 in Massachusetts, has 37 horses; 30 big ones and seven smaller ones.
The carnival attractions open for riders today at noon.
Trudy McDanniel stood with her anxious brood outside the main gate of the county fairgrounds in Langley Thursday morning — the first in line for the first day of the 2009 Island County Fair.
Patience, she told her children Connor, 8, Clara, 5, and Annie, 3. The foursome had arrived early, thinking the fair opened at 9 a.m.
“We’ve waited a whole year; we can wait five or 10 more minutes,” she told them. “OK, five minutes. We can wait five minutes.”
At 9:30 a.m., the gaggle of fair workers who had been sweeping the pavement at the front gate stepped out of the way and Trudy McDanniel gave the family’s two tickets to volunteer ticket-taker Don LaMontagne. (Kids 5 and under get in free, and McDanniel noted her daughter Clara would turn 6 on Friday, so today was her last free day for the fair.)
Connor had his priorities already set before the family took more than six steps inside the gate.
“I want to go on a ride,” he said.
His mom put the quick kabosh on that.
“Today is our barn day. We’re going to see all the animals,” she said.
This is the calm before the storm. Or maybe the corndog before the mustard.
On one end of the fairgrounds, workers from Paradise Amusements were putting together rides on the midway.
The Gravitron was in place, but partially assembled. The Tilt-a-Whirl and the Sky Master were still on their respective trailers, however.
Closer to the horse arena, however, some rides were ready to go already — lacking only a ticket taker and a line of kids. The merry-go-round was already up, and so was the kiddy roller coaster. The Berry Go Round was partially put together, but the kid-carrying berries were nearby, ready for hanging. There was still some finishing work needed on the bumper-car attraction.
A Paradise worker said the crew had just come from a fair in Klamath Falls, Ore., and expressed no doubt that the rides would be ready to go when the fair opens Thursday morning.
Back at the midway, all the picnic tables had been stacked near the main stage, so food vendors could back up their vehicles to their food booths and begin unloading supplies. Many were doing just that on Wednesday afternoon, but most did not have their banners up yet. Temporary business licenses from the city of Langley were still Scotch-taped to the doors of other food booths, where vendors hadn’t yet arrived. Across the way, volunteers at the American Legion booth were already cooking hamburgers and hot dogs, and deciding whose job it would be to cut the hotdog buns.
The occasional sound of a spurting paint-spray gun filled the air as volunteers continued to work on the new gate and ticket booth at the main entrance to the fairgrounds. The noise of power tools was interrupted at times by shouts of “Welcome back!” between food vendors seeing familiar faces from fairs past.
Over at the Sho-Nuff stand, near McLeod Cabin, employees of the Oak Harbor barbecue joint had pilled high a table with huge jars of pickles and a bounty of buns. Two metal cookers were already puffing out small clouds of smoke.
Hundreds of yards beyond the aroma of smoking pork, Caelen Coe, 10, was washing baby shampoo off of the back of his 227-pound pig, Tank.
Spent the last few hours wandering around the Island County Fairgrounds today, the day before the big show opens.
Why didn’t anyone tell me the American Legion Post 141 food booth was already open? Turns out I could have had biscuits-and-gravy for breakfast this morning; they opened at 8 a.m. to help feed workers who are setting up the fair.
I was so upset I could barely eat my first “deluxe burger” of this year’s fair. Somehow, I managed.
Cloe Amsler was busy at work Wednesday helping to paint pieces of the chute that will be used for the 4-H livestock auction at this year’s fair.
Cloe, 10, of Oak Harbor, is a member of the Whidbey Island Hogs 4-H club. She was getting help from her sister Caterina, 13, on the painting project near the swine barn at the fairgrounds. Cloe said they were making good progress. After painting, she said she was going to help give a pig a bath.
“We’ve gotten almost all of the parts of the chute done,” she said.
Please, no one smell my breath when I get back to the office from the fair tomorrow.
Bloomin’ onions! Garlic fries!
Uncle Norski’s out of Oak Harbor promises to have both for sale at their booth on the midway.
This year, I’m vowing to try more than my standby favorite: the incredibly tasty “deluxe burger” offered by the skilled chefs in the American Legion Post 141′s food booth. I must have eaten at least 14 of those burgers last year over the span of four days.
This time, I’m going to try the Hawaiian chicken and the Kalua pork over at the Golden Grill stand, or maybe a luau chicken burger from the Salem, Ore. outfit.
I’ll also wander over to SnoNuff Foods and try their barbecue pulled pork, to see if it matches up to my own straight-outta-Kansas recipe.
All may not be fantastic, food-wise, at the Island County this year, however. Looking over the menus from food vendors who are scheduled to be at summer’s biggest event, I can’t find one that is selling curly fries. This may be the biggest scandal since the cancellation of the barnyard scramble, if true. Stay tuned.
Just got off the phone with Danny Vernon, who will bring his popular “Illusion of Elvis” show back to the Island County Fair on Friday night.
Vernon, named “Best Young Elvis” in 2003, played before a boisterous and appreciative crowd at last year’s fair. The South Whidbey Record did a special “Backstage with Elvis” video then, see it here.
Vernon will once again be backed by the DeVilles, and he said the concert will feature some new costumes and a few new gospel songs in the lineup.
“Every show we do is a little bit different,” he said. “We’re looking forward to an exciting show; I’m going to be pumped.”
Vernon had nothing but praise for the Island County Fair as a venue.
“We like it very much. The audience is very gracious, and the hamburgers are delicious,” he said with a laugh.
“It’s just very friendly. We’re very happy to come back.”
Vernon’s show is on the Eva Mae Gabelein Stage at 8:30 p.m. Friday.
The appearance falls midway between shows at the Skagit County Fair in Mount Vernon and the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma. Vernon said the show at the Emerald Queen Casino, on the anniversary of Elvis’ death on Aug. 16, will feature the 17-member Total Expierence Gospel Choir.
To hear a sample of Vernon as the King, click here.