Whidbey Island Area Fair hits its weekend stride

Christina Sousa, 9, stands near her ribbon-winning ceramic sculptures. The Langley girl won a blue ribbon for “Rock Star Girl” and “Geisha Girl.”  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Christina Sousa, 9, stands near her ribbon-winning ceramic sculptures. The Langley girl won a blue ribbon for “Rock Star Girl” and “Geisha Girl.”
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

The lights are gone, the smell of fried food has wafted away and the shrill sound of shrieking children on rides has vanished.

Just like that, the 89th annual Whidbey Island Area Fair is over. Four days of 4-H contests, horseback riding, chicken olympics, stage performances, curly fries and Yo Yo rides wrapped up Sunday evening, but not before a horde of people flooded the fairgrounds over the weekend.

A hundred or so people lined the streets from downtown Langley along Cascade and Camano avenues to the fair for the parade Saturday. Spearheaded by grand marshals Bob and Connie Alexander, more than 20 entries walked and rode, in cars and on horseback, their way to the fair.

There were political entries such as Langley Mayor Fred McCarthy in an old truck and South Whidbey School District director candidate Rocco Gianni on foot with his family and supporters wearing “Let’s ‘Rock’ Education” T-shirts.

Parade regulars like the 4-H groups Knight Riders and Centaurs trotted by on horseback, and the Happy Hounds group cruised along with its canines.

Some of the paraders were motivated by other factors, such as a group of children and one dog being towed behind a tractor in carts like a train.

Many children, like Langley brothers Crispin Dolde, 6, and Liam Dolde, 10, came prepared. They brought bags to stash candy from paraders who were busy flinging taffy, butterscotch and chocolate at spectators. When the Goose group came by and someone in a gorilla suit offered the brothers a banana, they backed away, shaking their heads.

They, like many young fair-goers, had their sights set on something more exciting than a potassium-laden treat. Liam Dolde said he was excited for the Gravitron on Sunday, which looks like a flying saucer and uses centrifugal force to pin the people inside to the wall. He would have been disappointed upon seeing the Gravitron was not at the fair this year. There was also another notable absence, that of a Ferris wheel.

Sales were reportedly strong in the food booths. As of Saturday morning before the anticipated lunch rush, the Democrats of Island County hot dog and fries booth sold 100 hot dogs and expected to sell another 300, bringing in about $3,500.

“I was expecting it to be a little stressful,” said Aaron Simpson, the group’s chairman.

One booth volunteer, Karen Vanderbilt, wore her political allegiance on her shirt with a donkey pin that had “56” on it. The pin was from when her mother volunteered for the unsuccessful 1956 presidential campaign of Adlai Stevenson. Ben Watanabe / The Record | Crispin Dolde, 6, and Liam Dolde, 10, scramble for candy as the Whidbey Island Area Fair parade passes them on the corner of Sixth Street and Cascade Avenue.

The nearby American Legion booth was adorned with what looked like donkeys, though they were cutouts of horses to go with the fair’s theme of “Blossom to Awesome.” Those decorations earned the American Legion the best booth award, a large ribbon that was kept in the back of the stand where it would not be subject to grease and other cooking hazards, said booth organizer John Lutch. Through three days of the fair, the Legion booth managed $12,000 in sales, about 1,600 of which came from hamburgers.

Beyond the fair’s main entrance, which led to the food area and main stage, awaited exhibits and displays by 4-H and other groups. One of the most interactive displays was the underwater robotics presentation by South Whidbey’s youth team, Atlantis, Inc. It won a regional competition earlier this year and competed in an international contest. Atlantis, Inc. members showed children how to pilot remotely operated vehicles, also called bots, in a small pool outside.

“I love seeing their eyes light up grabbing it (the controls) for the first time,” said Hannah McConnaughey.


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