8 insider tips to enhance enjoyment of the fair

By Craig Brown, Columbian metro editor


photoRed, white and blue ribbons are the most commonly awarded, but other prizes call for other colors.

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If you go

What: Clark County Fair.

Hours Thursday: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Where: 17402 N.E. Delfel Road, Ridgefield.

Admission: Military Appreciation Day, $7 admission with military I.D.; general admission: adults, $10; seniors 62 and older, $8; kids 7-12, $7; kids 6 and younger, free. Group packs available for admission discounts daily.

Parking and transportation: Parking, $6 per vehicle; C-Tran shuttle, $2 round trip from area park-and-ride lots. C-Tran riders get a $1 discount on fair admission. C-Tran fair schedules: C-Tran.

Carnival: Noon to 10 p.m.; unlimited rides, $25.

Grandstands: Mötley Crüe & Poison with New York Dolls, 7 p.m., tickets include fair admission; Freestyle Moto X, 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., free with fair admission.

Other highlights: Brian Ledbetter, Illusionist, 5 p.m.; The Martin Brothers, 5:30 p.m.

Pets: Not permitted, except for personal service animals or those on exhibition or in competition.

Information: Clark County Fair or 360-397-6180.

By now, Columbian readers know that one of the state’s largest fairs is in full swing on 170 acres in full view of Interstate 5 at the Northeast 179th Street exit.

But what do the insiders know that most of the 250,000 annual fairgoers don’t?

Where are the open picnic tables? When are the best carnival ride deals? And why can’t I find the pigs?

Here are eight tips insiders know that might make your next visit to the fair a better one:

  1. The carnival is a separate business enterprise from the fair. Why does this matter? The opening hours are different, for one thing. The carnival opens at noon, after the fair is in full swing, and tickets need to be bought in the carnival area — don’t stand in line at the fair office! Wristbands for unlimited rides are $5 cheaper on weekdays, and some rides are restricted to riders who are too small, too large, or not wearing closed-toe shoes. For a list: http://www.clarkcofair.com/documents/2011rides.pdf.
  2. You can rest in the shade if you know where to find it. Though the weather has yet to approach scorching, it could be warm on Saturday. Take a rest on one of many shaded benches in the Kids Park. You’ll find it behind the fire station and the first aid booth, just west of the large exhibit hall. As a bonus, there is often entertainment on the stage there.
  3. You don’t need to stand in line for the restrooms. A busy day, particularly around show time, can overwhelm restrooms on the south end of the grounds, particularly the one in the white building near the food court. Use the blue restrooms at the northeast end of the food court instead, or treat yourself to some air conditioning and use the modern facilities located all along the north side of the exhibit hall.
  4. You don’t need to stand in a food line to get a cold drink. In the exhibit hall, Clark Public Utilities offers unlimited free ice water in paper cups, and at least two vendors offer free water. If you want bottled beverages, there is a drink and snacks cart diagonally opposite the east entrance to the small animal barn. Since it doesn’t serve prepared food, there’s hardly ever a line, and they keep the sodas for sale in a large tub of ice.
  5. Hidden picnic tables. Eating in the food court is the best bet when it’s raining, and the tables turn over quickly, but it can be hard to find a seat during peak hours. What most people don’t realize is there is a grassy lawn with some picnic tables immediately behind the fair office. To get there, exit through the middle of the food court to the east, and turn left at the Jest in Time Family Fun Stage. There are more picnic tables on the south side of the food court, but they are busier. (Bonus tip: For the first time this year, there are some indoor tables on the south grandstand end of the community groups and Scouts building, where in former years there were law enforcement booths.)
  6. Parking is a challenge on the final day of the fair. The monster trucks scheduled for that afternoon and evening usually draw a monster crowd, and parking lots can approach full by midafternoon. Go early or take C-Tran, or at the very least be prepared to walk a long way from your car to the fair. Everybody leaves after the final show, so consider getting some dessert to let the crowd thin out a little before you try to exit.
  7. The animals are changed on Wednesday. Most of the barns see double-duty during the fair, with the animals changed on Wednesday night. There are more cattle during the first half of the fair; nearly all of the pigs are on display only during the second half of the fair. Cavies are also second-half creatures. There are always plenty of sheep, goats, llamas, alpacas, bunnies and poultry. Dogs and cats come each day with their 4-H Club minders and don’t stay over; the schedule varies but the dogs and cats aren’t there together.
  8. Ribbon colors extend way beyond blue, red and white. Grand champion (overall winner) ribbons are usually purple and gold, and reserve champions are pink and white. Other large ribbons such as red, white and blue, are given as special awards. Green and white ribbons are used in some 4-H contests and also signify exceptional achievement. Some of the art contests award placings with green or yellow ribbons; read the ribbons to see what they signify.

Craig Brown: 360-735-4514; craig.brown@columbian.com.