Boldt among fair’s biggest fans

He makes difference as county commissioner, volunteer

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter



If you go

What: Clark County Fair.

Hours Friday: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

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

Admission: Kids’ day, $5, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday; adults, $10; seniors 62 and older, $8; kids 7-12, $7 after 5 p.m.; 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.

Carnival: noon to 11 p.m.; unlimited rides, $25.

Grandstands: Demolition Derby, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., free with fair admission.

Other highlights: SW Washington Regional K-9 Demonstrations, 3 p.m.; The New Jangles, 3:30 p.m.

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

Send your fair photos to The Columbian.

More information: Clark County Fair or 360-397-6180.

He’s a second-generation Clark County farmer who wears cowboy boots with his suits.

So it should not come as a surprise that among the three county commissioners, Marc Boldt is the Fairest of them all.

Sure, Chairman Tom Mielke helped judge a cheesecake contest and Steve Stuart was totally planning on rocking out at Thursday’s Mötley Crüe-Poison concert.

But neither come close to putting in Boldt-like hours at the Clark County Fair.

Boldt said he’d be there five out of 10 days, serving BBQ sandwiches at the Young Life booth east of the food court.

“The fair is the county’s way of life,” Boldt said Thursday, dismissing any idea that, even if the county eventually has to dip into the general fund to support the fair, it would be canceled.

It costs approximately $3 million to stage the fair, which draws approximately 250,000 people and has consistently been rated the top fair by the Washington State Fairs Association.

The fair makes a profit, but also has to make enough money to support the horse arena and the Clark County Event Center.

Boldt shrugged off any concern that the fair fund might, for the first time, need support from the county’s general fund.

“It’s very rare that any county will go very long without” resorting to using its general fund to support the fair, he said.

Boldt considers the fair the best non-essential service the county provides.

Stuart, who, like Boldt, grew up in Clark County, said Thursday that Boldt keeps the fair in mind year-round. Even seemingly unrelated topics, such as increased health department fees, can be tied to the fair (temporary food handler cards) and Boldt always makes the connection.

“I’m a huge supporter of the fair,” Stuart said. “And I’m not even close to being in the same league as Marc.”

In June, when county commissioners first discussed a proposal by the owners of the Class A Yakima Bears to bring the minor league baseball team to Vancouver, talk quickly turned to a proposed 5 percent entertainment admissions tax. Mielke said he wouldn’t approve a tax without a countywide vote. Looking for an ally, Mielke asked Boldt whether he’d consider a tax that would affect the fair.

Boldt said at the time the issue didn’t have to be decided yet.

An estimate by the county said the tax would bring in approximately $965,000 a year that could be used for paying off a baseball stadium at Clark College.

Boldt made it clear Thursday he will not support the tax if the fair (estimated to bring in $53,069 annually) is included.

“There’s no way we could add to the ticket price,” Boldt said.

As a worker in a food booth, he understands that the more people pay to get into the fair, the less money they will spend inside the gates.

The only way he’d support an admissions tax on the fair, he said Thursday, was if the revenues went back to the fair.

Proponents of the baseball proposal have been trying to find alternate funding, which will be discussed at an Aug. 24 work session.

Son of a dairy farmer

On Monday, County Administrator Bill Barron, who starts the week with one-on-one meetings with commissioners, met Boldt at the fairgrounds, as he has in years past.

On Tuesday, Boldt was at the Clark County Public Service Center for a commissioners meeting; he was also at work Wednesday for meetings.

By Thursday, he had once again exchanged a suit for his Clark County fair shirt and was ready to work an 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift.

While he can be found prepping and cooking meat, evidence of his dedication to the fair can be seen throughout the site, Stuart said Thursday.

“There are facility improvements that only occurred because of Marc’s knowledge of the site and his time spent at the fair,” Stuart said.

Boldt, who turns 57 this month, grew up on a Proebstel dairy farm.

At age 5 or 6, he started going to the fair, showing his father’s cows, an August ritual that went on for years.

A 1973 graduate of Evergreen High School, Boldt earned an associate degree in agriculture from Yakima Valley Community College.

In 1980, he bought a 40-acre blueberry farm in Brush Prairie. Later, he started helping with Republican political campaigns; in the early 1990s, he worked as a lobbyist for the Washington Farm Bureau.

Frustrated with growth management restrictions and wanting a “pro-business” atmosphere in the state Legislature, Boldt ran in 1994 and toppled 17th District State Rep. Kim Peery, the House majority leader.

Boldt, who sold his farm in the late ’90s, went on to serve five terms.

In 2004, he was first elected county commissioner, a full-time job that currently pays $98,224 a year plus a $500 monthly car allowance.

Big contribution

Boldt, who lives in Hockinson, has not forgotten his agriculture roots. As a commissioner, he’s been able to improve the fair he knows so well.

While Boldt doesn’t boast about all he’s done for the fair, Stuart is happy to do it for him.

“He’s the primary reason the concerts are at the (Sleep Country) Amphitheater,” Stuart said.

The privately-owned Amphitheater leases land from the county, and the headlining fair concerts have been moved there. That has made room for a full schedule of free daily entertainment at the grandstands that includes jousting tournaments, a rodeo, bull riding, a truck pull and monster trucks.

“That was very much Marc’s influence,” Stuart said. “He saw an opportunity to free up space in the grandstands.”

Stuart said Boldt also pushed for more county employees to do public outreach.

“It was his idea to just get our staff out there and communicating with people at the fair,” Stuart said.

This year, the county’s Aging Readiness Task Force has a booth at the fair, trying to get more people engaged in how the county is planning to accommodate the booming 60-and-older population.

Employees are on hand to share updated shoreline master plans, and the “River Ramble” has returned for a third year.

The group of environmental educational booths includes activity centers situated along a colorful river that’s painted on the floor.

The “River Ramble” has received awards from the International Association of Fairs and Expositions and the Western Fair Association.

Stuart credited Boldt with the idea for “River Ramble.”

“He saw it as an opportunity to educate people on the importance of water quality,” Stuart said.

Cindy Stienbarger, the education and outreach coordinator for the county’s clean water program, said Boldt did more than just suggest county employees have a bigger presence at the fair.

One year, Boldt even built a kiosk for the employees to use, she said.

“He’s definitely made it a priority,” she said.

Boldt’s mild-mannered style also takes some pressure off Clark County Fair Manager John Morrison to resolve all of the behind-the-scenes arguments that are inevitable when there are parents and youth competitions.

“People know him, and they go to him to mediate disputes,” Stuart said. “He does a good job of listening, and he never pulls rank.”

Is there anything Boldt won’t do for the fair?


Every year, the chairman of the Board of County Commissioners is invited to be one of the judges at the cheesecake contest.

Except when it’s Boldt’s turn to be chairman.

He hates cheesecake, and fair organizers know him so well they know better than to even ask.

Stephanie Rice:;;