Gates open at Clark County Fair

10-day event kicks off today with focus on music

By Erik Hidle, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: August 2, 2013, 8:58 AM

 

If you go

■ What: Clark County Fair.

■ Hours Friday: 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

■ Where: 17402 N.E. Delfel Road.

■ Admission: Free, 8 a.m. to noon today with coupon from Fred Meyer. Adults, $10; seniors 62 and older, $8; kids 7-12, $7; 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 9 a.m.; unlimited rides today, $25.

■ 99.5 The Wolf Grandstands: Kutless, 7 p.m.

■ Other highlights: Adam The Great, 1 and 4 p.m.; Cykhyia featuring Hip Hop Soulsation Academy, 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 mobile app for the Clark County Fair.

The 2013 Clark County Fair kicked off this morning, and it is ready to rock.

Michael Jackson's infamous red jacket from the "Thriller" music video is on display, a rock 'n' roll maze is ready to explore, an interactive history of "The Institute of Rock 'n' Roll" will let folks jam on drum sets and giant keyboards, and three free concerts are ready to kick off the opening weekend.

"The concerts are a huge change," said Fair Director John Morrison on Thursday as he inspected the concert setup in the main grandstands ahead of opening day on Friday. "We heard from the public they wanted more free music at the fair. And they're back."

The grandstand concerts — featuring Kutless, Blue Oyster Cult and Kip Moore — are being held apart from the Sleep Country Amphitheater shows being headlined by Alan Jackson and The Avett Brothers.

Morrison says when the free concerts let out, it gives revelers a chance to stay in the action.

"When the concerts are out here, people are still right in the fair," Morrison said.

That means folks will have a chance to check out the interactive history display featuring rock memorabilia.

Also nearby is a new feature called "FairCon," which will introduce pop culture activities such as Magic: The Gathering and Madden video game tournaments.

And, of course, there are the mainstay attractions: the animals are back, and so are the rodeo events and motorsports competitions.

There's also the bounty of food options fairgoers should expect, complete with contests for who can chow down the most pies, hot dogs or watermelon.

And there are the rides.

Morrison recommends a rotating tower of chairs called Vertigo that takes riders up 100 feet into the sky and spins them around.

"It's a new ride, and I believe it's a premiere in the Northwest," Morrison said. "They chose to unveil it here, so we're pretty happy about that."

Top brass for carnival operator Butler Amusements were in attendance Thursday morning. And what do they suggest?

Mick Brajevich, the carnival's CEO, said the Raptor is worth a look.

"There's some serious speed and movement there," Brajevich said.

Jim Hall, Butler's site manager, said the Raptor is a good pick, as it's "an outrageous ride." He also suggested the Thunderbolt as "a real nice one, too."

Hoping for good weather

Despite overcast skies, this morning started with the traditional large attendance. Many Clark County residents consider it a tradition to turn out for the annual free pancake breakfast, sponsored by Fred Meyer, which also includes free admission to the grounds. A coupon is required.

By 9 a.m. the line for the breakfast wound from the grandstand area through the fairgrounds, a wait of at least an hour.

The hope at the county is that a big fair is on the way. Last year's fair lost around $108,000 when attendance wilted under blazing-hot temperatures.

In 2012, attendance was 219,054 people. That was down from 251,892 in 2011.

The revenue loss was only the second time the fair had lost money in Morrison's two decades of working at the fair.

With temperatures currently expected to remain relatively cool, Morrison is optimistic about a return to better attendance levels. Even if the fair gets a little drizzle of rain, as was seen during Thursday's prep work.

"If that's all it is, I'll take it," he said.

C-Tran, which provides shuttle service to the fair in the afternoons, has early morning routes running today. For more information visit http://www.c-tran.com. Shuttle riders also save $1 off fair admission.

Erik Hidle: 360-735-4547; http://twitter.com/col_clarkgov; erik.hidle@columbian.com