Songs, robots, crafts fill Whidbey Island Fair’s final days

The 91st Whidbey Island Fair hit its full stride beginning with the annual parade Saturday.

Trevor Wilmeth of Clinton

The 91st Whidbey Island Fair hit its full stride beginning with the annual parade Saturday.

Grand marshals Marilyn and Verlane Gabelein led the procession through Langley in their white convertible 1984 Buick Riviera, followed by a host of organizations, clubs, and individuals.

While some fairgoers overlook the parade or skip the annual trot through town, Langley residents Staci McGill and Deb Dubendorf were among the throng that lined the course and relished the sight of every entry. The women sat on the curb of Langley Road near the side entrance of the fair, laughing and giggling. It wasn’t hard to tell what they were enjoying.

“I love to watch the parade,” Dubendorf said. “My daughter is in 4-H. I had the option to walk my daughter in the parade and I said, ‘Sorry, but I watch the parade.’ ”

The morning started with a sky covered in clouds, but it didn’t take long for them to burn away and the fun to begin.

Following the parade, the Shifty Sailors opened the entertainment on the Midway Stage. After a five-year absence from the fair, the Shifty Sailors never missed a beat. The all-male group retouched on the old genre of sea shanty, bringing new energy to it. Harmoniously singing a variety of hearty songs about navigating the seas, maritime work, and a host of other lyrical forms, the group kept things lively and active.

Inside the Burrier Building, the thinking minds of tomorrow were given hands-on opportunities

piloting robots created by the Atlantis Inc. ROV team and Oak Harbor High School’s Robotics Club.

Quad-copters flew through the air while other robots were submerged under water, each with their own pilot controlling them.

The biggest attraction was Oak Harbor’s land bot. Sitting on four rotating wheels, drivers controlled a crane and lifted and dropped objects into specified locations.

As each new pilot grabbed the controller for their crack at maneuvering the bot, Oak Harbor robotics teacher Che Edoga instructed the previous handler to teach them how to use it.

Watching from a close distance, 4-year-old Henry Zovar was delighted to see the bot. Henry giddily bounced around and clapped his hands when he saw the Edoga’s robot shift around the room.

“He loved that robot,” said his mother, Jennifer Zovar, a Bellingham resident who graduated from South Whidbey High School in 1995.

Hannah McConnaughey, a member of the Atlantis team who will enroll at the University of Washington this fall, was overjoyed to share her love of robotics with the children.

“Honestly, I just love seeing how excited the kids get, seeing their eyes light up when they get the controller or seeing them smile when they finally get the quad-copter off the ground,” she said.

Just up the hill at Fiddle Faddle Farm, children participated in a cupcake decorating contest.

Satya Kuhn, a two-year-old from Greenbank, made a valiant effort in decorating her cupcake with red, blue and cream-colored frosting, though most of it ended up smeared across her face.

“They have so much fun, that’s why we bring them,” said her grandmother, Angie Boyer of Coupeville. “It’s a kid-friendly environment.”

Island County Fair Association Board President Jason Kalk said he considered the event a success and thanked the volunteers for their work in running it.

“I think it went well. It was a major effort from a large group of people,” Kalk said. “At the top of that are two fair managers taking on a massive job in a short amount of time. I heard lots of good things throughout the four days. They worked well together so things went smoothly. For a pair of first-timers, they did a great job. And then there’s the volunteers, who make it happen as well.”

Kalk did not have an estimate for how many people attended the fair.

“That’s an arduous job,” Kalk said. “It hasn’t been done yet.”

The date of the fair was set for the first weekend in August in order to match with Davis Carnival’s (the group that brings the games and rides) scheduling, Kalk said. Because of these obligations, future dates will be set for Aug. 4-7, 2016, Aug. 3-6, 2017, Aug. 2-5, 2018, and Aug. 1-4, 2019.

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