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Island County Fair will get under way on Thursday

The 85th Island County Fair opens Thursday in Langley for a four-day action-packed run of exhibits, animals, competitions, entertainment, midway rides, tasty food and even a parade.

Cloudy weather and cooler temperatures aren’t expected to dampen the enthusiasm for one of the county’s most popular events, organizers say.

Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 13 through 15 and 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday at the fairgrounds on Cascade Avenue.

Admission to the fair is

$7 daily for adults (16-64), or $20 for a season pass. Military personnel with ID, senior citizens 65 or older, and juniors from 6 to 15 can get in for $5 each day, or get a season pass for $15. Children 5 and younger can get in for free.

Fair director Sandey Brandon said there will be an opening ceremony at

12:30 p.m. Thursday to celebrate the new, volunteer-built, ticket booth. The specially designed gate looks like a barn entrance flanked by grain silos.

“Hopefully, those coming this year will enjoy both the new look and old favorites,” Brandon said Tuesday. “There’s a lot going on, as usual.”

Thursday is Kids Day, and children can receive half off any admission ticket with a donation of two cans of food from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Friday is Family Day and Senior Day. The first 300 seniors (65 and older) through the gates receive discount coupons and gifts from food and product vendors and, at 3 p.m., there will be a senior tea and dancing to the big-band sounds of Route 66 in the Pole Building.

At the annual Fair University, Thursday is Domestic Arts Day, Friday is Alternative Energy Resources and Emergency Preparedness, Saturday is Farm & Garden Day and Sunday is Healthy Living and Good Food 4 U.

As usual, 4-H members from throughout the county will be out in force, demonstrating their prowess in horse competitions, home economics, animal husbandry and arts and crafts.

Jackie Vannice, WSU-Island County 4-H program coordinator, said 4-H enrollment is up about 25 members this year from last for a total of 275, and that 33 more leaders and parent coordinators have signed on.

“We must be doing something right,” she said Tuesday.

Vannice said nearly everyone in 4-H plans to take part in the fair. The emphasis this year appears to be getting back to the basics, she added, with increased participation in home economics and arts and crafts.

She said 4-H members range from kindergartners to high school seniors. She said budget cuts this year have required that more responsibility be placed on leaders, parents and volunteers.

“We’re extra proud of our leaders and 4-H’ers,” Vannice said. “They’ve done lots of hard work and it shows.”

She said safety is of particular concern this year, after the spread of a virus transmitted by sheep at last year’s Western Washington Fair at Puyallup resulted in the deaths of 19 animals.

Vannice said bio mats will be placed in barns, and there will be more emphasis on hand washing. She also urged fair visitors not to pet the animals.

The annual parade is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday. Staging begins at

9 a.m. at Visser Funeral Home, 432 Third St. in Langley.

The parade will travel through downtown Langley and along Camano Avenue to the fairgrounds, where it will proceed down the midway and back out.

Grand marshal will be Dr. Kent Freer, 68, of Oak Harbor, a Whidbey Island veterinarian for 41 years who was chosen in honor of his years of service to 4-H and the fair.

Other parade participants will include island 4-H members and their animals, followed by a “pooper-scooper”; several local public officials and members of area service groups; members of local scout groups and martial arts programs; a color guard; and fire trucks, the official fair float and hay rides.

For children of every age, there will be plenty of carnival rides. The usual favorites will be on-site and ready for fun, said Paradise Amusement crew chief Buddy Merten.

“We’ll have the Octopus, Tilt-a-Whirl, Skymaster, Gravitron, Ferris wheel, kids roller coaster and bumper cars,” he said.

Ticket packages will be available to help keep ride costs down, but the special advance-purchase wristbands are all sold out, Merten said.

Meanwhile, when it comes to the fair, all the fairground’s a stage.

Beginning at 9:30 a.m. and extending through to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, entertainers are expected to rock, sway, amuse and delight.

On the Eva Mae Gabelein Stage, Danny Ward kicks things off, followed by Buck & Elizabeth, Island Strings, the African Allstars, Silhouettes, Locust Street Taxi, Kontagious Movement, Kevin Wolfe and Nathan Chance.

On Friday, fairgoers can check out Erik Christensen, One World Taiko, Hot Shot Tap Dancers, Stan Boreson, Hejira, Carrie Cunningham, The Magic of Sterling Dietz and — a fair favorite — the Danny Vernon “Illusion of Elvis” show.

Whidbey Island mainstays Janie & Joe will be featured on Saturday, followed by Ken Emerson, JP Patches, Swords Into Plowshares, game show host Vince Vandervander, Tiller’s Folly and The Timebenders.

Meanwhile, at the Pole Building Stage on Thursday, the Whidbey Children’s Theater presents “Nickelodeon,” and Ciscoe Morris gives gardening tips.

On Friday, Ed Hume will be followed by the Route 66 big band and, at 6 p.m. 4-H Performing Arts.

When you get hungry at the fair, there’s a wide variety of booths to choose from, including Julie's Original Lumpia, K.C. Brand Kettlecorn, Lebanese cuisine form La Jitana, greens from Salad Daze, chocolate-coated fruit on a stick from Shishkaberrys, barbecue from ShoNuff Foods, Whidbey Coffee and scones and blooming onions and garlic fries from Uncle Norski’s.

There’ll also be hot dogs from the Island County Democrats, and ice cream from the Island County Republicans.

You can get Hillbilly Gyros, American Legion burgers, Dinky Donuts, funnel cake from E-Zee Concessions, tacos and other Mexican food from El Corral, roasted corn from Funfood Adventures, noodles from the Golden Grill and pancakes and French toast from the Island Christian Academy.

All in all, it’s going to be a really big show.

Details can be found online at www.islandcountyfair.com.

Staff writer Jeff VanDerford contributed to this story.

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