PORT ANGELES — The Clallam County Fair’s livestock showing, carnival riding and rodeo fun is once again on hold.
But smaller 4-H events are in the works.
Organizers of the Clallam County Fair announced last week that, for the second consecutive year, the annual civic celebration, which had been slated for Aug. 19-22, has been canceled due to uncertainty about the COVID-19 pandemic.
The recommendation was made on May 18 by department staff at a Clallam County Fair Board special meeting, said Joel Winborn, director of Clallam County Parks, Fair & Facilities, in a press release.
The fair board voted 6-3 to cancel the fair after a lengthy discussion, Winborn said.
When board members canceled the 2020 fair — scheduled to be the 101st iteration of the event — it was the first time since 1946 that the county had suspended the fair, and only the second time in its 101-year history that an outbreak of disease has forced the fair’s cancellation; that was 1918’s influenza pandemic.
Fair manager Shari Ioffrida said that while fair organizers were hopeful they’d be able to host the 2021 Clallam County Fair, state guidance and public health considerations moved them to cancel.
“This was a difficult decision and one not taken lightly nor made quickly, but made to ensure the health and safety of our fair-goers, volunteers, exhibitors, vendors, sponsors, attractions and staff,” Ioffrida said in the press release.
“We are going by the current requirements but I don’t think a lot of the extra requirements are going to go away by August, Ioffrida said Friday.
State regulations include the need to monitor the number of people on the fairgrounds and limit the number in indoor exhibits to 50 percent, she said, adding that parking also would need to be monitored.
Expanded staffing would be necessary to do it all with any hope of success. Although the fair depends upon volunteers, more paid staff would be needed and people looking for work seem to be in short supply, according to the fair director.
Other county fair personnel are reporting a loss of volunteer base “and they are not finding extra people to hire,” she said.
“There’s not many people applying for jobs now.”
Although some board members — four were not present for the vote — felt that possibly the fair could go on this year, most decided it was more than could be handled.
However, in a second vote on May 18, board directors unanimously agreed to open the Clallam County Fairgrounds to off-season events.
The fairgrounds will open Monday, June 7, and local 4-H Clubs are already planning small events and practices, county park officials said.
“We’ve already started working on having some horse shows, and maybe a cat show and maybe a dog show,” 4-H program coordinator Melanie Greer said in an interview last week.
“We’re upset we’re not going to have the whole fair — obviously it’s devastating — but that’s definitely much better than last year. Even if it’s not open to the public, kids are still able to go out and do some cool stuff.”
Enrollment in county 4-H groups have dropped off from as many as 300 in recent years to about 100, but that number is growing now as youths hear that the fairgrounds will be able to host limited events, Greer said.
“They are definitely starting to (come back),” she said.
“The governor put out guidance on how to hold fairs. The larger the event, the more complex event, the harder it is to meet all the benchmarks. That’s why it’s easier to have several, smaller events. It’s not as much fun, but it’s something.”
Greer noted that, like last year, the Pacific Northwest Junior Livestock Auction will continue and local 4-H youths are preparing their livestock for that; visit pnwjla.com for more information.
Fair organizers are accepting reservations with current state guidelines for safety and health compliance; contact the fairgrounds office at 360-417-2551 or email to [email protected].
The 2022 Clallam County Fair is scheduled for Aug. 18-21.
“We are looking forward to bringing the fair to you in 2022 with all the fun, food, displays and entertainment that we have been known for,” Ioffrida said.
Through the years
The fair’s history dates back to 1895, held in the Port Angeles Opera House located on Front and Laurel Street on the first weekend in October.
Laurie Davies, a Clallam County Fair board member, noted the first Clallam fair was put together by several civic leaders and was promoted to boost the morale of Clallam County citizens following the Panic of 1893.
Clallam County Citizens came as far as Neah Bay and Forks, and a ferry was available for Victoria’s travelers. Attendance was not recorded, Davies, said, but 700 entries were presented at the first fair. Tickets were 25 cents for all except Friday evening festivities (an extra 50 cents), or $1 for a season’s pass.
Over the years, the fair was either suspended or other activities were held in its place four times; from 1896-1913, before the second fair; in 1918, during the worldwide outbreak of influenza; in 1920, when fair officials purchased property and began planning for events at its current location just west of Port Angeles, and 1942-1946, during World War II.
Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].
Peninsula Daily News Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].