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Kudos to Fair Board, Sale Committee and volunteers


September 17, 2020

DAYTON–Everyone I talk to can’t wait for 2020 to be over with, done, finis.

It’s like we’ll wake up some day and there won’t be any more hysteria about COVID-19 and we’ll say “Now, where was I?”

What it’ll take to get to that “Someday,” I have some good ideas. But then again, I ain’t the governor and he’s got some different ideas and “2021” may be involved!

We flattened the curve last winter, giving American Ingenuity a chance to build respirators and ramp up production of PPEs.

Nowadays, if you hop out of your car and forget your mask, chances are there’ll be masks at the entrance of where you’re going. I’ve dropped into the Public Health Department more than once after leaving the office on an errand downtown, having forgotten my mask.

As this coronavirus situation developed, staples in our lives dropped like flies. School. Movies. Sporting events. Parades. Concerts.

One by one, long-respected community events withdrew from the risk of spreading the virus. For most, canceling this year’s edition of the event was a first.

It was heartbreaking to skip Dayton Days and All Wheels Weekend. The Alumni Association wisely canceled, preventing an outbreak…we will never know. For that demographic and since most alums travel from distance ports to D.H.S. home base, it was the right decision.

Over the horizon was the Columbia County Fair, and many hoped and prayed that by August and then early September, that Columbia County would be in a phase which would allow a limited fair.

Meanwhile, fairs and rodeos of no small import fell, one by one. The Walla Walla Fair and Frontier Days canceled, as did the world-famous Pendleton Round Up, which this year included two Dayton women on the court: Queen Josilyn Fullerton and Princess Kaleigh White. (With 2020 written off, they will serve on the 2021 Court.)

Except in Dayton. The Columbia County Fair Board pledged early in the summer to hold something, even if it was just an exhibition. The Board approved going forward, fingers crossed that by September, people would be allowed to peaceably assemble and watch young boys and girls show animals.

Kind of like making a pizza, they committed early on to the “crust” of kids showing animals only. No ticket sales, no elephant ears, no Lions Club taco salad, no bull riding and no demo derby. The Board was optimistic that those could be added as COVID-19, like Dracula, shrank in the full light of a summer day.

As the hot August nights came and went, the Fair Board adapted and overcame obstacles. They adapted the exhibitor system to permit kids to compete. They schemed to live stream each show on Facebook. They collaborated with County Commissioners and the Public Health Department to ensure that Fair activities complied with Gov. Inslee’s edicts.

It would’ve been much easier to stay home, put their feet up and binge-watch something on Netflix.

The Fair Board talked the talk, walked the walk…came through with solutions to make the 2020 Fair a one-of-a-kind success.

Kids got to show their animals and sell them at the auction. Buyers stepped up with an abundance of generosity.

Around the state, most of the county fairs canceled. Understandably, there is a reverse economy of scale in the case of Columbia County. With physical distancing requirements (I really hate to call it social distancing), not too many more exhibitors may have made the Fair unwieldly. We were like Mama Bear’s rocking chair: juuuust right.

In fact, it may be that Columbia County’s fair and our neighbors to the east, Garfield County, may be the only two county fairs to have face-to-face events under the banner of “County Fair.”

Join me in applauding the Columbia County Fair Board for their dedication and determination in pulling off the 2020 show…for the kids. They couldn’t have done it without support from the County Commissioners Mike Talbott, Charles Amerein and Ryan Rundell, and from Martha Lanman, administrator of the Public Health Department.

President: Matt Johnson

Vice President: Grant Griffen

Directors: Rose Engelbrite, Tracy Hanger, Ty Lane, Mary Ann Ward, Donna Hanger, and Carol Hays, Secretary/Treasurer.


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