Gabelein grand marshals recall fair’s ‘hayday’

Just as it has every year, the Island County Fair Association faced a dilemma in determining who would lead the Whidbey Island Fair parade as grand marshal.

Marilyn Gabelein and Verlane Gabelein will lead the Whidbey Island Fair parade on Saturday

Just as it has every year, the Island County Fair Association faced a dilemma in determining who would lead the Whidbey Island Fair parade as grand marshal.

The goal of the selection, fair board President Jason Kalk said, was to pick someone who has had the biggest impact on the fair.

So, the board members looked around the room and discussed who would be most worthy of the recognition. That was when they realized Marilyn Gabelein, in her 31st year working with the association, and her husband, Verlane, exemplified that criteria.

At 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 8, Marilyn and Verlane will be honored as grand marshals of the Whidbey Island Fair parade. They’ll drive their 1984 Buick Riviera to lead the festivities, which will begin by the fire house and end at the fairground.

Verlane has been coming to the fair since he was a child. Marilyn started attending when her children were young.

Marilyn, who has also been a 4-H leader for 30 years, is a first-time grand marshal. Her primary efforts this year were researching and bringing in entertainment in accordance with what she learned from community members about what they wanted to see. She also regularly attends fair conferences where she networks with other associations across the state to look for ways to improve and contributes to fundraising efforts.

“She brings that long history,” Kalk said. “She’s served many roles in the fair and has held a number of different positions on the fair in addition to horse duties. She’s always willing to be involved in other areas.”

Marilyn said she was disappointed with last year’s entertainment, which is why she set her sights on improving the quality of performances.

As for why they chose to sport their Buick, Marilyn thought the car represented a time in their lives that was worth sharing.

“Old people like us, when you get to our age, you want to drive something that’s from your era,” she said.

“I think we’ll just do our wave and then head back up to the horse barn because we’ve got horses in the parade and people watching them. I said I’m going to jump out of the car and run and see how the kids are doing with their horses. It’s pretty exciting.”


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