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Performances, food, records wrap up Whidbey Island Fair

Ardea Batiste, competing in the senior division, rides Hope in the two-barrel flags event Saturday at the Whidbey Island Fair in Langley. A member of the South Whidbey Centaurs Horse 4-H Club, Ardea took second in the shotgun flag race. - Justin Burnett / The Record
Ardea Batiste, competing in the senior division, rides Hope in the two-barrel flags event Saturday at the Whidbey Island Fair in Langley. A member of the South Whidbey Centaurs Horse 4-H Club, Ardea took second in the shotgun flag race.
— image credit: Justin Burnett / The Record

By Record Staff

The Whidbey Island Fair ended Sunday with the sun breaking through as the final acts took to the Eva Mae Gabelein Midway Stage.

The weekend was cooler than predicted after a hot fair opening on Thursday and near-sweltering weather on Friday. But temperatures stayed warm and nary a raindrop fell to dampen the spirits of any creature, human or otherwise.

While throngs attended for fun, many didn’t forget the needier members of the island community.

“Thursday started very well with the half-price admission food drive, which added 1,109 pounds of food to the Good Cheer Food Bank,” said volunteer Shawn Nowlin. This far exceeds the take in 2011. How much was collected during the four days from the carnival pre-sale redemption has not yet been determined.

“The heat drove families home in the afternoon while the veggie critters melted like the Wicked Witch, and we never recovered,” said Sandey Brandon, fair manager, speaking of the first two fair days.

The forecast for Friday must have kept a lot of people home, Brandon theorized, “so going into the weekend, we were way down at the gate and food booths. Everyone was wondering if the fair would ‘happen’.”

The fair’s fortunes turned quickly, however. Brandon described Saturday as a “remarkable recovery that generated the largest single-day gate we have had in at least 20 years.” Even with significant discounts for military, the Les Schwab discounts and Facebook coupons, gate purchases exceeded $32,000, she said.

“Food vendors ran out of nearly everything and most were extremely happy. It’s hard to make up in one day, though, for two slower days,” Brandon noted.

“We had a powerful number of youngsters who participated in our passport to adventure program,” Brandon said. “Due to our name change, I ordered 1,500 passports, we ran out Friday afternoon and wound up using leftover Island County Fair ones until we could get another emergency print run of 500. We also ran out of this year’s prizes and had to use leftovers from last year, so that was a hit.”

The Timebenders, a band that plays Beatles and other old tunes, has become a Whidbey Island Fair staple with fans and this year was no exception.

“The Timebenders had an absolutely magnificent audience Saturday night and kept the crowd present and dancing following a beautiful sunset,” Brandon said.Justin Burnett / The Record Oak Harbor resident Sarah Felger makes her way down the kiddy climbing pole after reaching the summit, about 50 feet off the ground at the Whidbey Island Area Fair in Langley.

Sunday was another “stellar day,” as Brandon recalls. “A perfect storm of weather kept it cooler, with intermittent sunshine and everywhere I went, a sea of smiling faces.”

The fair’s record of never permanently losing a parent was upheld in 2012. “All lost parents were reunited with their offspring,” Brandon said.

Among event highlights, Kelly Cammermeyer, the fair’s “office diva,” in Brandon’s words, climbed to the novice line in the pole climb and was barely beaten by Virginia Keck.

Jackie Vannice as Lady Gaga won the adult alpaca showmanship contest hands-down. The roasted corn supply ran out midday, so fairgoers made a run for clam chowder in a bread bowl and other favorite fair fare.

“The animal exodus went smoothly for a change, and everyone got out of Dodge before sunset,” Brandon said, describing the scene Sunday evening.

In the lost-n-found division, fair representatives were able to hand four wallets with cash and credit cards intact back to their rightful owners (an unusual situation), which elicited a positive comment from Ann Spink on Facebook about her experience.

“Likewise, the majority of lost cell phones were reclaimed by happy people who have their entire lives contained therein yet don’t chain them to their bodies,” Brandon said. “We must have had more honest folks at this year’s fair than is the norm, which is a very good thing since Sheriff Mark Brown called to say, ‘sorry, won’t be there this year.’” Langley Police Chief Randy Heston showed up daily and walked through, stopping in the office for an icy bottle of water and a chat about how things were going.

Former Langley Mayor Neil Colburn described the fair experience for many with this Facebook comment: “We had the perfect fair experience. We arrived, ate, said ‘hi!’ to friends, we left. Nice to see new faces. Loved the ‘Mayor’ shuttle.” A golf cart, now legal on Langley roads, shuttled people about town.

Adding to the revenue was the popularity of the new Whidbey Island Fair tie-dye T-shirts, designed by Brandon, which sold out. “Everyone simply loved them except some old guys,” she said.

Revenue figures the day after the fair were still being tabulated, with only the food revenue totally tallied.

“At the end of the fair, we were only down 3.14 percent over last year, which was an exceptional year. I expect the gates report will show approximately the same percentage decrease,” Brandon said.

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