Clark County Fair opens with sizzling start

Large crowd at pancake breakfast, clear weather forecast have organizers optimistic

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

Published:

 
photoVolunteers Alecia Glaspey, left, 9, of Washougal, and Madison Johnson, 6, of Vancouver, sit down for breakfast during the annual pancake feed on the opening morning of the Clark County Fair on Friday.

(/The Columbian)

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If you go

• What: Clark County Fair.

• Hours today: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

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

• Admission: Adults, $10; seniors 62 and older, $8; kids 7-12, $5 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today, $7 after 5 p.m.; kids 6 and younger, free; parking, $6; C-Tran shuttle, $2 per person round trip from area park-and-ride lots; children 6 and younger ride free. $1 discount on admission with a bus fare stub.

• Carnival: Opens at noon, unlimited rides today, $30.

• Sleep Country Amphitheater: Monster Trucks & Tuff Truck Finale, 2 and 7:30 p.m.

• Other highlights: Pretty Baby Contest, 10 a.m. registration, 11 a.m. contest; Cykhyia with NSR Dancers, 9 p.m.

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

• More information: www.clarkcofair.com or call 360-397-6180.

• Online: Download The Columbian's mobile website for the Clark County Fair at: http://www.columbian.com/fair-mobile/

On what would become Clark County’s first 90-degree day of the year, nearly 15,000 people passed through the gates during the first three hours of the Clark County Fair on Friday, when admission was free.

Not everyone, though, was willing to stand in a long line for a free pancake breakfast sponsored by Fred Meyer.

Marree Sedgwick of Orchards said she and her family come every year on opening day. They arrived at 10 a.m. -- saving $30 in admission costs -- but saw the long line for the free Fred Meyer pancake meal and decided it was worth it to buy breakfast.

Sedgwick was with her sons, T.J., 13, Cristian, 4, and her fiance.

"We'll be here probably all day, all night," she said. She brought a stroller so her youngest son wouldn't get tired from walking and could take a nap.

Clark County Fair Manager John Morrison called the 11 a.m. gate count of 14,926 people (as counted by volunteers) "an extremely encouraging number."

The gate count includes vendors and exhibitors.

Typically, between 12,000 and 14,000 people indulge in the free breakfast, Morrison said.

And, as with every year, two deputies from the Clark County Sheriff's Office had to stand at the end of the pancake line and inform latecomers that they missed out.

This year, it was Deputies Greg Chaney and Marc Butterfield.

"Sorry," Butterfield said as he broke the news to people who would get in line. "It's got to end sometime."

The thousands of people who did wait in line were a captive audience for political candidates, who walked around shaking hands and reminding people to vote in Tuesday's primary.

Among the candidates were Joe Tanner, a Democrat running for Clark County commissioner, and State Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver. Both said they were greeted warmly.

"If you want a free breakfast, you have to shake a politician's hand," Benton joked.

Other than the pancake line, there were the usual fair lines Friday: at an ATM, ticket booths and for Clark County Dairy Women milkshakes.

Some fairgoers may have noticed that the flag at the grandstand was flying at half-staff. Flags at all county buildings were at half-staff Friday in memory of Dr. Jack Giesy, a large-animal veterinarian who died July 28 at age 80.

The horse arena at the fairgrounds is named for Giesy, who volunteered at the fair for more than four decades.

Promising weather

While Morrison was pleased with the Friday's attendance, he's equally encouraged by the weather forecast.

Weather plays a big factor in fair attendance. A rainy day can mean a loss of up to $80,000.

The temperature at Vancouver’s Pearson Field briefly hit 90 degrees Friday afternoon, the first time that threshold has been met this year.

Morrison added that there will be misters on the midway to bring relief for people this weekend. Temperatures in the mid-90s are predicted for Saturday and Sunday.

"I'd prefer mid-80s, but I'd take a little warmth before cool and rainy," Morrison said.

Last year, 251,892 people attended the 10-day fair, which runs through Aug. 12.

Attendance was down from 254,797 in 2010, but paid attendance was up, which means more people paid full price instead of buying discounted tickets in advance.

Last year, food and beverage sales were up 13 percent from 2010.

It costs approximately $3 million to stage the fair. Last year, after Morrison paid his direct costs (all things fair-related) and indirect costs (his share of utilities at the fairground site, for example), the profit was $54,000.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.