Opinion

Editorials

"With the memory of the 2001 Island County Fair only a few days old, this is a good time to begin a serious study of the fair's future.Each year the Langley-based fair attracts thousands of visitors, thanks largely to a dedicated cadre of hard working volunteers who make it all possible. Their efforts are appreciated, and yet there are some unsettling facts about the fair in its present location.First and foremost is that the fair does not seem to be growing. Attendance is probably less than it was 10 or more years ago, and the number of entries in various categories, from agriculture to art, seems to be declining. Fewer exhibits translates into decreasing islandwide participation, which is not a good thing.It has been common knowledge for years that the Island County Fair isn't going to grow because of its location. The fairgrounds consists of about 10 acres hemmed in on all sides by expensive property, and there's no way imaginable to buy more land. Parking is a nightmare that will only get worse when property across from the fairgrounds that is now on the market is sold. If the fair is to grow and thrive, it probably has to be be moved.In recent years many people have opined that the Greenbank Farm would be the ideal location for the fair, particularly since it has come under public ownership. Whether this is something the Greenbank community would support is worthy of study.In fact, everything about the fair needs to be studied. We should find out what people think about the fair, what its strengths and problems are, and how it could be improved. How can we encourage more Central and North Whidbey participation? And is the Greenbank Farm a feasible alternative location?The public also needs to know about possible uses of the present fair property. Portions of it likely would have to be sold to provide money to move the fair. Our county's many fiscal conservatives would probably love to see some public property put back on the tax rolls. But it's not as simple as that. Creative ways of using the existing fairgrounds property should be studied, and ideas solicited regarding what should be saved and what could be sold. Proposals from developers should be fielded for public/private partnerships that could develop the land while retaining public areas and facilities.Everyone involved with the Island County Fair deserves accolades for producing a great county fair with limited facilities and a shoestring budget. But we need to look to the future.The ultimate responsibility for the success of the fair rests with the Island County Commissioners. They should consider appointing an islandwide task force to study the fair and come up with some solid information and recommendations. It's time to begin securing the future of the Island County Fair. "

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