PORT ANGELES — The livestock displays, rodeo, carnival and scones will have to wait until 2021.
The 2020 Clallam County Fair, set to be the 101st iteration of the event and scheduled for Aug. 20-23 at the fairgrounds in Port Angeles, has been canceled.
It’s the first time since 1946 that the county has 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 happened once before during the 1918 influenza pandemic.
“We have been working under the assumption that the 2020 Clallam County Fair would occur as scheduled,” Joel Winborn, director of Clallam County Parks, Fair & Facilities Department, said in a press release issued Friday.
“However, due to current COVID-19 concerns and after meeting with the Clallam County health officer, WSU Extension director and the 4-H program coordinator it was clear that there were far too many unknowns remaining in order for us to dedicate the time and necessary resources to produce the 2020 Fair.”
Hosting the fair would be possible, he said, only if Clallam County were in Phase 4 of the Governor’s “Safe Start” plan, which does not appear likely.
The Jefferson County Fair, set for the the weekend of Aug. 7, was canceled on May 15 for health safety reasons, the first time since World War II.
Clallam County Fair officials said Friday they are already directing their efforts toward next year’s fair, scheduled for Aug. 19-22, 2021.
“Clallam County has a long history of facing adversity and flourishing in difficult times,” said Shari Ioffrida, Clallam County Fair manager.
“Our return next year will be a reunion where we will celebrate our county’s resilience and accomplishments.”
4-H, FFA auction
The fair has since 1895 linked thousands of businesses and individuals in the community by showcasing products and services to fair-goers, Winborn said.
It has also been a format for members of local 4-H and FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America) clubs to vie for top honors and dollars for their market animals during the livestock auction, Winborn said.
“It has been heartbreaking to have to weigh in on this decision,” 4-H program coordinator Melanie Greer said in a statement.
“4-Hers and FFAers work hard all year on the projects they showcase at the fair, and this year is no different. Hundreds of Clallam County youth have put in countless hours so far toward this fair and deserve recognition for their hard work and perseverance.
“Healthy living and community service are central to 4-H, and it is in this spirit that we temporarily put our own hopes aside in larger service to the health of the whole community.”
Winborn said that over the past weeks plans have been underway for a Virtual Livestock Sale in the event the fair were to be canceled. More information will be forthcoming from the Pacific Northwest Junior Livestock Auction with regards to a time and place, he said.
Greer noted that those in the community looking to support 4-H youth who auction animals to contact the Pacific Northwest Junior Livestock Auction via the organization’s website, www.pnwjla.com.
Fair through the years
The fair’s history dates back to 1895, held in the Port Angeles Opera House located on Front and Laurel streets on the first weekend in October.
Laurie Davies, a Clallam County Fair board member, said the first Clallam County Fair was put together by several civic leaders and was promoted to boost the morale of Clallam County residents following the Panic of 1893.
Residents came from as far as Neah Bay and Forks — or farther; 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 all except Friday evening festivities, which cost 50 cents. A season pass was $1.
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].