The Whidbey Island Fair will kick off about two weeks earlier than usual this year, a move organizers say will add new flavor to the annual event.
The fair has for the past two years begun the first Thursday in August, but this year it’s set for July 20-23. A couple of weeks may not seem like much, but the change will make a surprising difference in what fairgoers can see and do.
“I had no idea until we sat down and started discussing the pros and cons,” Fair Board Secretary Megan Williams said.
Perhaps one of the biggest changes concerns the availability of rides. The fairgrounds is one of the smallest around, said Williams, and the traditional run date coincided with other fairs held in the region. That made it hard for the fair’s carnival vendor, Oregon-based Davis Amusement Cascadia, to guarantee the appearance of crowd favorites, such as The Zipper. People notice when it’s not offered, particularly younger crowds.
“The kids love it,” Fair Administrator Carol Coble said. “They get on it, they get off and get right back in line again.”
Hoping to add predictability and certainty, the fair board agreed last November to pull back the dates to better align with the vendor’s schedule. Before making the decision, fair officials met with groups such as 4-H and Deer Lagoon Grange to get an idea of how it might impact agricultural events. They learned it would make a big difference, particularly with seasonal items.
“We won’t see raspberries, but now we’ll see strawberries,” Coble said.
Sadly, blackberries may also be a no-show.
The date change may also affect what jams and jellies are available, she added. Other seasonal impacts may be seen with floral competitors. Fairgoers will likely see fewer hydrangeas and dahlias but more roses.
Other areas of the fair, however, won’t see much change. Hair Nation, the 1980s glam rock revival band, will be back in full costume, as will Elvis, and The Olson Bros. Band from Olympia. Local talent, such as Whidbey River, PETE and Danny Ward will also make appearances.
The wine garden run by Ken and Virginia Bloom will also return. It’s planned to be open all four days of the fair.
Williams said ticket prices will remain the same at $8 for adults.