For the younger crowd, the Whidbey Island Fair is all about rides and the absurdly large mounds of curly fries sold at food stands.
For people like Langley resident Marilyn Bunker who comes back to the annual event year after year, it’s more about reminiscing and passing that experience onto their kids and grandkids.
“We’ve been coming to the fair ever since we moved here 40 years ago,” Bunker said. “I’m nostalgic about this fair. I love seeing the local kids enjoying the same experience my kids had when they were their age.”
The Whidbey Island Fair returned to Langley on Thursday to the typical enthusiasm from locals and people from the surrounding area. Although the Whidbey Island Fair always centers around tradition, the fair is a bit different this time around. The date was moved up two weeks from 2016, as the fair is typically held in August.
The four day extravaganza kicked off with slightly gloomy weather in the morning, but as if on cue, the skies cleared by the time crowds arrived in the afternoon. Either way, people weren’t deterred to get their fix of treats and fun, as hundreds of people filled the fairgrounds by 2 p.m.
Once past the entrance, people were greeted with the greasy aromas of the food court. The usual fair suspects — elephant ears, burgers, gyros, lemonade, etc. — was supplemented with Hawaiian, Filipino and Mexican bites. The curly fries were, as usual, popular with hungry fairgoers.
“We’re always looking forward to the rides and of course, the curly fries,” Freeland resident Phoebe Price said. “You can’t forget about the piglets though. They’re so cute.”
Although typically the most mellow day, people had their pick of activities and contests. The animal displays were popular as ever, with some itching to pet horses, cows and even chickens, while 4-H groups went toe to toe to see who raised the most impressive goat, pig, etc. The younger crowd flocked to the northwest corner of the fairgrounds to satisfy their thrill fix, whether that meant racing friends on a slide or testing their mettle on more extreme rides.
Music, magic and trick performers took to the central Midway Stage throughout, pulling laughs and smiles from the crowd.
“There are rides, there are animals, there are robots, food, businesses selling goods and all sorts of things,” Ashley McConnaughey, superintendent for various fair contests, said during the opening ceremony. “This fair is about our community, our friends, our family and its just people coming together to have a really wonderful time.”
McConnaughey’s message rings true for Bunker, who agrees the Whidbey Island Fair is a celebration of the island. Bunker says the fair mirrors Whidbey in a way, in that it’s a laid back, heavily-localized event as far as fairs go.
That’s exactly how Bunker likes it.
“I cherish the local aspects, from the people to the entertainers,” Bunker said. “If you want to have a nice, not-too-expensive fair, this is the perfect place to be. It’s kind of like Whidbey: generally laid back.”