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Rain cuts Fair attendance

"Photo: The Paratrooper ride at the Island County Fair provided lots of thrills for those willing to try the experience.Jon Jensen, staff photoAttendance was down but fair volunteers and employees' spirits were up after the four-day run of the 2000 version of the Island County Fair.In fact, they were up most of the fair. Carol Buck said she and the other fair office staff probably worked 100 hours during the week. But after a day of rest Monday, they were back in the office Tuesday, starting to add up the numbers.Those numbers weren't ready by early Tuesday afternoon, but Ruth Turner, Fair Board chairwoman, said everyone agrees that fewer people attended this year's fair than last year's. There's a simple, a one-word explanation for that fact: Rain.The rain really killed us, Turner said. People don't want to wander around during the rain. Friday was way down.Heavy rain on Friday morning wiped out the daytime crowd and deterred would-be fairgoers from attending that night. They apparently decided to wait for fairer weather. Friday's entertainment headliner, a band called Smokin' Gun, played with enthusiasm, but before an audience that numbered a few dozen at most. At times during the two-hour show, only a handful of people were sitting on the benches arrayed in front of the stage.More people turned out Saturday during the day and on Saturday night to see the Time Benders perform, but rain returned to dampen the crowd.By Sunday, the weather had improved, the sun came out, and people finally flocked to the fair. Attendance really went up on Sunday, Turner said. The day saw long lines at the carnival rides, a lively crowd for the Shifty Sailors and an enthusiastic audience for The Lovin' Spoonful. Visitors also danced to the sounds of the Generation Gap Big Band and the blues rock of Swamp Mama Johnson, which closed the fair.Kids were all over the fairgrounds during the day both Saturday and Sunday, fishing for prizes in frog ponds, eating corn dogs, elephant ears and cotton candy, and visiting the new Paradise Amusement rides, the little ones on the carousel and the teens seeking out the daunting Cyclone, Paratrooper or Tilt-a-Whirl rides.Adults found their favorite spots at the Kiwanis barbecue or the VFW hamburger booth, eating corn on the cob and scones, listening to the music on the Eva Mae stage. Big draws continued to be the Bunyon Buster Log Show on Saturday and the Barnyard Scramble on Sunday. One of the largest crowds gathered at the dismantling of a car by Fire District 3 firefighters. The demonstration, done Saturday and Sunday afternoons, was narrated by District 3 Capt. Darrin Reid. He explained each step in the process, from the hydraulic equipment that removed car door hinges so the doors could be removed to the saws that sliced through the posts and allowed the top to be folded over onto the hood of the car.Throughout the process, two firefighters stood by with a hose, ready to take on any fire that might erupt.Reid explained to the crowd that District 3 crews respond to about 1,100 calls annually, and he put in a plug for more volunteers, asking people to contact any fire station or firefighter for information.He also announced the time throughout the demonstration, emphasizing the need to get the victim removed safely without unduly endangering rescuers.It was popular, said Reid. And we got really great training films from it.Sunday's popular Barnyard Scramble had dozens of youngsters racing after chickens and a lone duck. Some of the children expressed disappointment that there were no rabbits in this year's catch-it-and-keep-it event. "

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