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March 05, 2008
County pulls plug on traditional fair
ENUMCLAW, Washington (STPNS) -- After years of declining attendance and flagging interest, King County has pulled the plug on its traditional fair.
Instead, the county will offer a three-day affair that emphasizes agriculture, education and, above all else, young folks and their animals.
The turn away from the fair that became a July tradition in Enumclaw is clearly defined by ?what?s new? and ?what?s gone.? The transformation will be played out on the grounds of the Enumclaw Expo Center, formerly the King County Fairgrounds.
Gone are many traditional offerings fairgoers have come to expect. Visitors will no longer enjoy the rides and midway games that came with the carnival. Nor will they be entertained by acts on the main stage or smaller stages around the grounds. And many of the usual vendors will no longer make a stop in Enumclaw.
In place of the traditional fair, which has seen attendance plummet in recent years, the county will provide a family-oriented event that focuses on the Plateau?s agricultural legacy and the environment.
King County Executive Ron Sims said the change is in response to both community input and changes at the Expo Center, which is now owned by the city of Enumclaw.
?Time and again, we have heard from the community that the animal and 4-H exhibits were the most important elements of the fair,? Sims said.
Carrying a theme of ?Show it, Grow it, Know it,? this year?s event ? renamed the King County 4-H Agricultural Fair ? is planned for July 18-20.
The fair will provide agricultural and environmental displays on topics like sustainable farming, recycling and alternative fuels.
Sharon Roberts, fair manager for the county, added that she?s working on attracting experts in areas like solar energy, recycling, composting and noxious weeds. The county has traditionally offered a Small Farm Expo on the grounds each spring; that event will not take place this year, Roberts said, and some of its vendors are being contacted about the fair.
Sims said the changes were partly brought about by ?structural changes to the Expo Center,? as the city moves toward converting the grounds to an equestrian center.
?We strongly support the city?s efforts to become a significant tourist destination with its equestrian facility and Expo Center,? Sims said, ?but the transition meant we needed to revisit how we put on the fair.?
Enumclaw City Administrator Mark Bauer said the change can be traced to money on both sides of the equation.
?The biggest issue we?re confronted with is that we have to get that property to pay for itself,? Bauer said, noting that the Expo Center has been earmarked as a self-sufficient operation. For example, the city has leased one building to a gymnastics studio.
While the county has been guaranteed use of the grounds each July, it was with the understanding that ?they needed to massage the fair to work on the grounds available to them,? Bauer said.
?We understand that King County is putting on the best possible event under the circumstances, just as we appreciate the county?s support of our efforts to develop the property into a first-class equestrian and Expo Center,? Enumclaw Mayor John Wise said.
There will be no admission charged for this year?s three-day event.
Kevin Hanson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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