Fair opens with pancakes, threats of thunder

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter


Updated: August 1, 2014, 8:06 PM


Clark County Fair Pancake Breakfast 2014

If you go Saturday

• Hours: 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, $7; kids 6 and younger, free; military personnel in uniform, free; parking, $6; C-Tran shuttle, $2 per person round trip from area Park & Ride lots; children 6 and younger ride free. $1 discount on admission with a bus fare stub.

• Carnival: Opens at noon.

• Highlights:99.5 The Wolf Grandstands: Creedence Clearwater Revisited, 7 p.m. Columbian Community Stage: Scottish Country Dancers, 5 p.m.

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

• Information:www.clarkcofair.com or 360-397-6180.

As rain droplets began glossing the ground of the Clark County Fairgrounds at 4 a.m. Friday, Fair Manager John Morrison was conducting a final gate check and thinking, “Boy, I hope this blows over.”

Nothing ruins a fair like a summer storm.

But, as if on cue, the thunder ceased rumbling and the leaky faucet in the sky stopped its persistent dripping — all by the time gates opened at 8 a.m. Attending the first day of the fair is a tradition for thousands of Clark County residents, and Morrison didn’t want anything to stand in their way. A little rain probably wouldn’t have hurt attendance, but if lightning had become an issue, he would have had to shut down the rides.

“I can deal with a little rain,” Morrison said. “It’s better than excessive heat.”

For many of the fair faithful who came early on opening day, the first stop was the free pancake breakfast sponsored by Fred Meyer. Rain or shine, that’s the top morning draw every year. The pancake breakfast typically brings a first-day spike in attendance.

From the dishing area, the line snaked back out of sight, hundreds deep of hungry fairgoers. The wait wasn’t a deterrent for the persistent.

“It’s been moving pretty quickly,” said Michelle Ware of Vancouver. A little past the halfway mark on her march toward free pancakes and sausage, she said it had taken about 45 minutes.

She considered not coming to the fair on opening day because of the weather but thought better of it.

“What’s a little rain?” she mused. “We should be used to it.”

Several others said the stop to the pancake tent was an annual tradition. They couldn’t pass it up.

“We meet up with 14 other family members,” said Marge Steed of Ridgefield, who’s been coming to the fair for 53 years. “My family only gets together twice a year for holidays. So, other than that, this is the big family thing.”

Closer to the action, county officials were getting in on the action. With a captive audience streaming past them, Commissioner David Madore and Assessor Peter Van Nortwick were introducing themselves and shaking hands.

Inside the serving area, a volunteer who was trying to keep order told County Clerk Scott Weber to queue up for grub. He dutifully obliged after first introducing himself.

He called the pancake breakfast, and the fair in general, an opportunity for local officials to meet the public.

“It’s one of the great events the county supports,” he said. “The break in the weather has been perfect.”

That support comes in the form of ingesting massive amounts of pancakes. Volunteers from Fred Meyer brought 1,200 pounds of pancake mix, 50 cases of sausages, 100 cases of drinkable yogurt, 2,500 milk cartons and 1,300 orange juices to this year’s breakfast.

And, to re-energize the masses, there was enough coffee for 3,000 people.

Watching as people continued to pour into the serving area, Judi Swift, community relations coordinator for Fred Meyer and a veteran of pancake breakfasts past, remarked on how many familiar faces she sees every year.

“It’s tradition for a lot of people,” she said.