Whidbey Island Fair kicks off with a scream

Youngsters catch some air while riding one of the Whidbey Island Fair’s roller coasters.

Some come to the Whidbey Island Fair for the animal shows, some come for the rides, but nearly every fairgoer seems to look forward to the absurd mound of curly fries from the buffalo burger stand.

Hundreds came and went through the fairgrounds on the opening day of the 92nd fair for fun in the sun, and there was plenty of both to go around. Temperatures reached nearly 80 degrees on a day that was dominated by the sun, laughter and, of course, curly fries.

Fairgoers had to duke it out for parking first and foremost, though. Paid parking nearby such as the lot at the Langley Fire Station had spots that were filled long before noon, and cars lined Langley Road/Camano Avenue as far as the intersection of Langley Road and Maxwelton Road. But that didn’t stop Whidbey residents and off-island guests alike from storming the grounds, as lines of parents, enthusiastic kids and baby-filled strollers were formed as soon as the gates opened despite Thursday’s attendance typically being lower than other days.

Although the opening ceremony began at noon on the Midway stage, the morning was loaded with events as early as 8:30 a.m. The fair’s usual heroes, the animals, kicked the 2016 fair off in fitting fashion with the poultry quiz bowl before the area’s 4-H members gave a public presentation while the horses and their riders strutted their stuff at the arena with a “reinsmanship” precision driving contest. Kids caught a few laughs during the Chicken Olympics as they watched costumed fowl miserably attempt to navigate an obstacle course.

The pounding of hooves and clouds of dust would later shroud the horse arena as Shetland ponies stormed the ring pulling a cowboy-hatted man in a chariot. The ponies, fair first-timers under the name Crazy Eight, excited onlookers with their high speeds amid the more laid back 4-H events.

“The Crazy Eight was really neat to watch,” said Joyce Ferman, a Union Gap, WA resident who took her Whidbey-based grandchildren to the fair. “I love watching anything equestrian — my niece used to ride horses and I love how popular it is in Washington.”

There was no doubting what the kids were most looking forward to — the rides — and none was more excited than 6-year old Hector Colfer from Greenbank. Colfer and his grandparents have frequented the fair for the past three years and while he was excited to spend time with his grandparents, his eyes were set on the roller coaster. He was a rollercoaster engineer in the making who explained how his favorite ride, a hilled circular roller coaster, functioned.

“I basically love that ride, except last time it didn’t have that shape or a bump in the middle of the ride,” Colfer said. “I didn’t like the bump because it slowed the ride down. I like getting momentum with drops on roller coasters so it gets going super fast.”

While the little ones spent their energy screaming on rides and inhaling absurd three-pound heaps of curly fries, the adults were busy taking advantage of the available shade in the Pole Building for the art and photography contest. The photo competition was split into two categories — adult and children — and the kids’ work grabbed the attention of more seasoned photographers.

“There are some really good shots in the kids’ category,” said David Welton, a South End photographer. “I can’t decide which photo is my favorite.”

With more days of entertainment to follow, fairgoers each seem to be gearing up for something different. Some are looking forward to the excessively Pacific Northwest Bunyon Busters Log Show on Sunday afternoon, some are excited about ’80s hair metal tribute band Hair Nation, and others are looking forward to more funnel cake against the doctor’s orders. But one thing is constant — all went home smelling of curly fries.