Utility provides oasis at Clark County Fair

Fairgoers have had their thirst quenched by free water for 30 years

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

Published:

 
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Clark Public Utilities is helping Clark County fairgoers beat the heat by giving out thousands of cups of ice water.

When temperatures rise, more people crowd the booth in the air-conditioned exhibition hall.

"This fair looks to be very hot," said Erica Erland, spokeswoman for Clark Public Utilities.

The thermometer read 90 degrees around 4 p.m. Monday, when the ongoing tally for the number of cups given out at this year's fair was 25,800.

About 10,200 of those cups were given out Friday. Demand for free drinking water was so high the ice machine couldn't keep up, and volunteers had to go retrieve more ice, Erland said. The water comes straight from the fair taps.

"The one thing we can say is that people appreciate it," said Dan Baxter, 45, a meter reader volunteering at the Clark Public Utilities booth.

As people walk by the booth and grab a cup, many say "thank you" for the thirst-quenching water.

On Saturday temperatures reached 103 degrees and the number of cups given out for that day was 8,000, but the heat also hurt fair attendance.

John Morrison, the fair manager/CEO and biggest booster, said 17,000 to 18,000 people went to the fair Saturday, less than the 26,000 he expected.

Baxter said some fairgoers just ask for ice since it lasts longer out in the midway heat. Others just ask for water to pour into their reusable water bottles.

"Dinnertime, a lot of people like to grab water to wash down a burger," said Nathan Wolfe, 31, who drafts maps for Clark Public Utilities' water department.

Clark Public Utilities has been giving out water at the fair for more than 30 years.

The fairgrounds are in the heart of its water service area. It provides water to 30,000 homes and businesses, mostly in north Clark County.

"I'm always looking for them," said Alex Ferguson, 33, who has been going to the fair for 10 years.

Most people just grab the water and go.

A few, however, ask where the water comes from and compare county to city water. Retired utility employees recollect memories of working there.

"It's so funny. People ask so many different kinds of questions," Erland said.

As a bonus to the water, Clark Public Utilities will have electrical safety activities for kids Thursday on the midway. And any customer who signs up at the fair for AutoPay through their checking or savings account will receive a $5 Fair Bucks coupon good for fair food they can use that day.