Last week was the San Juan County Fair. I have been looking forward to this event all summer. County Fairs draw me in and I spent a great deal of my time as a teenager at the Richland County Fair in Ohio. I was in 4-H for nine years which practically guarantees a lifetime commitment to visiting county fairs.
The San Juan County Fairgrounds are located in Friday Harbor. We drive by the fairgrounds every time we go from Friday Harbor to American Camp. When I looked at the schedule of events for the fair, however, I realized that the fair was only being held on days that we work (Wednesday through Saturday)! Thankfully Ron and Beth were willing to switch a day with us so we could take a day to go to the fair.
We went to the fair on Thursday. San Juan County only has 16,000 residents and those residents are scattered on 172 islands. The ferry only serves the four most populated islands. So getting to the fair, especially if you are a participant with livestock, is not trivial. The fair also has a hard time getting food trucks and amusement park rides because they have to pay for ferry passage to the fair. One woman told me, “We aren’t on the A list of fairs for vendors. We aren’t on the B list. We are more on the Z list so we have to take those who are willing to come.”
We arrived at the fair close to noon, after a morning of meetings at NPS headquarters. So the first item on our agenda was lunch. We were looking forward to some of delicious, fattening fair food, but found the selection rather limited. The food vendors were set up around a food court. It was easy to find them and see what they had to offer. We ended up with pulled pork sandwiches – haven’t had those all summer – but the pulled pork was watery and the sauce was poured on the top instead of cooked in. We also had a piece of pie from the PTA pie booth. Tom had apple and I had blueberry nectarine. Better than the sandwiches but not something I would go out of my way to get.
We walked around the main exhibit hall and looked at flowers, vegetables, artwork, and preserves. Then we headed to the Fiber Arts Building. I had talked to people who told me there were spinning demonstrations, weaving, and lots of fleece for sale at the Fiber Arts Building. There were plenty of interesting items in the building – knitted, crocheted, quilted, and woven – but not much for sale. I did connect with Maxine from Lopez Island Fibers. She had some fleece for sale but all the roving was dyed. We agreed that I would order some things from her and get them shipped.
I always love to see the 4-H animals so we headed to the animal barns next. Most fairs have so many animals that you get a little tired of them before you see them all. Not so at the San Juan County Fair! We saw all the ducks, chickens, sheep, pigs, and cows at the fair. We even found the guinea pig grand champion – there was only one guinea pig! Each of the four main islands has a 4-H club and they do a great job of taking pictures of the kids with their animals.
We watched some of the judging. A line of 4-Hers with hens that were being held upside down. I don’t know why but the hens didn’t seem to care. Two youngsters with their lambs in the ring.
Finally we walked by the carnival games and rides. It was a small section but seemed well supported by the local youth.
I don’t know how many people attend the San Juan County Fair each year, but it was the highlight of the week for tourists and locals alike. The tourism web page says “The annual Fair draws thousands of visitors and is a sweet, small town county fair with an arts festival feel and major fun for the whole family!”
We enjoyed our hours at the San Juan County Fair. It was sweet and small and you got the feeling that everyone participating knew everyone else. We ran into about 20 people we know and we haven’t been here that long! The Fair helped us see the people of the islands beyond the tourist veneer.