Briefing highlights increase in attendance and 4H participation
StoryThe “seeds” planted to increase community involvement in the King County Fair, the oldest state fair west of the Mississippi—are starting to “sprout.” The Metropolitan King County Council’s Committee of the Whole received a briefing today from Enumclaw Expo and Events, the nonprofit group who, in partnership with the city of Enumclaw and King County has revitalized the once dwindling King County Fair.
“It was great to hear how much 4H youth from the Kelsey Creek Critters and Vashon Rock Riders appreciated our continuing support of the King County Fair,” said Council Vice Chair Jane Hague, chair of the Committee of the Whole. “Through activities sponsored by the King County Fair, kids have wonderful opportunities to connect with nature and to be leaders.”
“What is clear from today’s testimony is how important the Fair is to our youth agricultural programs throughout King County. To continue to have locally produced food we need to help encourage and train tomorrow’s farmers,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn, whose district includes the King County Fairgrounds.“I want to thank Mayor Liz Reynolds and the City Council of Enumclaw and everyone involved in creating a new governance structure that has clearly sprung new life into the Fair.”
The 152nd edition of the Fair, which celebrates the County’s agricultural heritage, was held July 16-19. King County is partnering with the Fair providing, $35,000 to the City of Enumclaw to support local 4-H Youth Development.
Scott Gray, General Manager of the Enumclaw Expo Center, and Kevin Wright, Director of WSU Extension told the Committee about the success of the new partnership. They said the infusion of financial support combined with the leadership of the Enumclaw Expo and Events Association resulted in a significant increase in attendance, revenues and 4-H participation.
In 2014, fair attendance dropped to 7,600. The total number of fairgoers in 2015 was 15,700, double the number from last year. 2015 revenues were five times greater than what was paid to the city by the previous fair operator in 2014.
The fair also saw a “Bumper Crop” from the 4-H ranks, with 475 kids, who with the help of 236 volunteers, were able to display 364 animals, which accounted for 359 exhibits.
The Bellevue-based Kelsey Creek Critters 4-H group had 19 members along with their rabbits entered in the fair. “We were very excited to see the fair back under local management,” said Fiona Hubbard of the Kelsey Creek Critter Club. “Congratulations goes to Brendan Pope for winning Best Rabbit in Show with his broken mini Rex Doe. Brendan is the first Critter to win Best in Show at the Fair in over a decade.”
Brendan capped his day with a champion ribbon in Breeder's Choice, a competition open to 4Hers who enter rabbits that they've bred and raised from infancy.
The committee also heard from members of the “Vashon Rock Riders” 4H horse group, with rider Melina Pratt telling the members the “Rock Riders rocked it!” at the fair.
The Rock Riders won the herdsmanship competition at the King County Fair and Marie Bradley, the Club leader of the Rock Riders said the Fair was an opportunity for the younger members to get the experience they need to move to the bigger stage, the Washington State Fair in Puyallup.
“We brought 12 members to the County Fair and five of them qualified for the State Fair,” Bradley said. “The knowledge they gained participating in the County Fair will prepare them for participating in the events at the Puyallup.”
Alina Brown is one of the newer members of the Rock Riders and she said the Fair was her first time participating in a competition and it allowed her to participate at an entry level. “Without the Fair, I would have been participating at a senior level. This Fair gave me the opportunity to see what the events are like and gaining the experience to start preparing to participate at the senior level.”
“Not only is the King County Fair fun for everyone, but it provides 4-H participants with unique learning opportunities,” said Council Vice Chair Joe McDermott, who represents Vashon Island on the Council. “Thank you to the members of the Vashon Rock Riders and Kelsey Creek Critter Club for sharing their stories of what their involvement in the Fair has meant to them.”
“The fair helps 4H youth showcase their year-round hard work with their animals while developing teamwork, leadership and communications skills, said Hague. “In the spirit of our Equity and Social Justice goals, as we move forward, we need to be more creative in making these opportunities more available to our youth county-wide.”
Looking into the future, fair organizers are hoping to create even more community involvement within the city, keeping the fair alive and well for the enjoyment of all. They received a boost in that effort right before the start of this year’s Fair when County Executive Dow Constantine was joined by Councilmember Dunn in presenting Enumclaw Mayor Liz Reynolds $50,000 in funding for the next two years to help support the operation of the fair.