PORT TOWNSEND — The Jefferson County Fair returns for the first time since 2019 this weekend, and though it’s been a challenge to bring things back, organizers say they’re excited by the community response so far.
“We have some beloved things people really have missed with COVID,” said Danny McEnerney, fairgrounds manager with the Jefferson County Fair Association.
“We have an immense amount of horse events — teen roping and barrel racing — we’re basically full with horse events.”
But when organizers began planning this year’s event, McEnerney said that wasn’t a guarantee.
Several of the groups or programs that supported events at the fair were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and the local 4-H Club only had four horses.
“But we got a lot of interest from different horse clubs and people who just really want to participate to supporting riding,” McEnerney said.
The outpouring of support from volunteers has been encouraging, McEnerney said, with community members showing up to help however they can.
The fairground’s buildings have been unused for three years, McEnerney said, and there was a heavy push to get them clean enough for the fair.
Gates officially open at 8 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but breakfast at the fair restaurant starts at 7 a.m. each day. Gates close at 8 p.m. both Friday and Saturday and at 6 p.m. Sunday.
Most of the fair’s events will be focused on youth, McEnerney said, noting that there were a number of “bouncy things” across the three days.
All-day events each day of the fair include free bounce houses and mechanical bull riding for kids, according to the fair’s schedule.
Part of the focus on youth is a requirement of the funding the fair receives from the state Department of Agriculture, which promotes agricultural fairs across the state.
There are 69 agriculture fairs in Washington state, according to a 2021 Department of Agriculture report on the economic impact of the fairs, which said that in 2019 the combined economic activity from fairs statewide generated $397 million in business revenue and $10 million in various state tax revenues.
The fair will feature a number of animal shows put on by members of the Jefferson County 4-H Club, a federal youth development program facilitated through local land grant universities; in Jefferson County’s case, Washington State University Extension.
Animals on show over the three days include, cats, rabbits, horses, sheep, pigs, goats, cattle and llamas, but per a recommendation from the state, no poultry events will be held this year out of concern for avian diseases such as avian flu.
McEnerney said there would be chicks and ducklings at the fair, but no adult poultry.
Aside from animal shows, the fair also will feature food, crafts, vendors, music and performances from children’s entertainer Professor Bamboozle.
McEnerney said he was happy to see popular events like the draft-horse pull and 4×4 mud drives come back. Pre-sale for tickets ended Monday, but McEnerney said the vast majority of sales for the fair happen at the gates.
“Our vision for our fair parents can sit and relax and have ice cream and let their kids have the run of the place and still feel safe,” McEnerney said. “That’s kind of the vibe that we try to make.”
Reporter Peter Segall can be reached by email at [email protected]