Thanks to the folks at either the Fair or Whidbey Telecom for coming up with the hashtag, #RockTheFair. That fits. The island’s nickname is The Rock (which is at least true for the northern end), and the fair had plenty of good rock music. A great trio would’ve been if there was a rock exhibit, but the Whidbey Island Fair is more directed to farm animals than geology displays. Welcome to the largest “county fair” on the island. When in doubt, wear your boots.
For four days in the summer, there’s a fair that’s familiar in any rural setting. Barns are filled with bunnies, goats, pigs, hogs, alpacas, and even dogs and cats. They’re noticeable inside and out because sounds and smells reach past the walls. Cuteness rules. Bigger barns hold horses, which are an entry and the stars of show and sport events. Wander around and find various other critters that are cared for by kids learning responsibilities, and in some cases, commerce. A livestock auction is included. To meet some of the previous years’ entrants, look around the grounds. Escaped bunnies stylishly populate the neighboring bushes to Langley’s consternation and delight.
It was the Island County Fair, but for reasons too complex and historical, it is now called the Whidbey Island Fair. Whatever it’s called, at its essence, it is a traditional county fair.
A hundred years ago it was far more agricultural. Now, add in game booths, rides, cooking exhibits, art shows and competitions, music, dancing, and generally hanging about with friends and neighbors. Even better are the friends who are neighbors and the neighbors who are friends. Handshakes, hugs, and high-fives are popular. So are kids wearing outlandish colors, squealing as they run through crowds, leaving their parents to play sherpa with prizes and purchases.
Big cities are in counties with big county fairs. They’re fun, too. But the crowds can be crowds of strangers. The exhibits so extensive and professional that they’re hard to get through or get into. A fair in a place like Whidbey Island will still have most of the same bits, including lumberjack shows and maybe a parade; but a tour can take less than an hour or fill the four days. Get to know the people and their animals, and get to know their stories which are worth slowing down to listen to.
Going to the fair is a good view of a slice of the island. Locals strolling through, chatting with each other. Vendors balanced in the dance between too much and too little eye contact. Look around at the buildings and see the history that is real. They are buildings built by people who were proud enough of their work that they wanted to share it once a year. Basically, it was social media from a time when phones were a treat and a luxury, and face time meant spending face-to-face time in 3D without buffering (except for diplomacy and manners.) Bandwidth described the size of someone’s belt.
Thanks to electricity, the show goes on into the night. The rides and boots light up. The bands kick in and the dancing starts. Hopefully, the rain takes a holiday.
Get there early for good parking and to see the 4-H shows. Don’t worry about brown bagging your lunch. There’s plenty of food to pick from. Take your time. Walk slowly. Enjoy the beer and wine gardens. And unwind. Fairs started as a way to share, and to socialize, and also to relax and have fun. Those things are still in style. Then get on your feet and #RockTheFair!