Morning Press: Primary Election, Fair, fireworks, River tours

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Will the sun shine for the Clark County Fair all week? Check the forecast here.

Primary matters: Election Day is Tuesday

photoThe inspection board at the Clark County Elections office sorts ballots on Friday. This Tuesday is the primary election.

(/The Columbian)

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If you're part of the 65 percent of Clark County registered voters expected to skip Tuesday's primary election, consider this: Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, won his 2012 re-election bid by a mere 76 votes.

That narrow general election victory shifted the power in the Washington Legislature and played an integral part in the demise of the Columbia River Crossing.

Whether or not you are pleased with the outcome, what it illustrates is clear: Voting matters.

And yet, as the primary quickly approaches, Clark County voters are expected to follow a nationwide trend that has seen a diminishing number of people casting ballots, particularly in midterm elections. Out of the 251,730 registered voters in Clark County, the clerk's office is expecting a 35 percent turnout in Tuesday's election.

A recent report by the Center for the Study of the American Electorate said the nation is on course to see the lowest midterm primary turnout in history. Several states are expected to set record lows for voter turnout. Since the 1950s, the number of people inclined to vote has been dropping, according to Jim Moore, a political science professor at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore.

Read the full story here.

Fair opens with pancakes, threats of thunder

photoFred Meyer volunteer Wendy Garcia makes pancakes at fair.

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.

Read the full story here. Find more information about the 2014 fair and highlights at www.columbian.com/fair. And check out It's The Fair, from blogger Toni Woodard, at http://blogs.columbian.com/its-the-fair.

Tickets for fireworks use shock people

photoFireworks are for sale in a Bomber Brothers tent in Hazel Dell. The differences in fireworks laws in different jurisdictions have led to confusion.

(/The Columbian)

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Growing up in Vancouver, Alexandria Roberts would set off fireworks July 3 before traveling with her family to the coast for the holiday.

This year on July 3, Roberts, 25, was outside with her sister at the home they share in the Ogden neighborhood, watching her sister's children throw Pop Its on the ground.

The children asked Roberts if she would set off one firework. Roberts checked her phone to make sure it wasn't past curfew, then lit the fuse.

She ended up among the 46 people cited for violating Vancouver's new fireworks law, under which personal fireworks can be discharged only on the Fourth of July.

In her appeal of the $250 ticket, Roberts included a photograph of a sign of legal discharge times that was posted at the stand on Highway 99 in Hazel Dell where she bought approximately $100 worth of fireworks.

The sign showed the legal times for unincorporated Clark County, where fireworks can be set off from June 28 through July 4.

"I still had 10 minutes left, that is why I shot off my one firework in celebration for my country," Roberts wrote in her appeal. "The officer tried to tell me, 'The city of Vancouver and Clark County are two different things,'" she wrote. "But how am I supposed to know that and keep track of all the different violations?" she wrote.

Read the full story here.

Memories of the moon landing

photoFormer Grumman employee Jack Atkinson recalls his days as a quality control worker on Apollo missions 9, 10 and 11.

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The last people inside the Apollo 11 lunar module were Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Vancouver resident Jack Atkinson.

Armstrong and Aldrin rode the module down to the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969. The 45th anniversary of the first lunar landing was celebrated a couple of weeks ago.

As a quality-control engineer, Atkinson made sure the lunar module could handle the trip, and he was the last person in it who wasn't an astronaut.

When archive film of Armstrong and Aldrin on the moon was shown recently, Atkinson didn't just recognize a milestone in American history. He saw a couple of moon-suited guys he knew.

"Armstrong was kind of a practical joker, in a way. With Buzz, you had short conversations, because the second verse was over your head," he said.

After one pre-launch trouble-shooting session, Atkinson admitted, he tried to walk away with Armstrong's watch.

Almost five decades ago, Atkinson was part of the Apollo 9, Apollo 10 and Apollo 11 missions. Atkinson worked for Grumman, the aerospace company that built components for NASA. He also worked on Apollo 12, but was laid off in August 1969, before it was launched.

Read the full story here.

American Empress riverboat tour calls Vancouver home port

photoAmerican Empress, a riverboat offering weeklong cruises on the Columbia and Snake rivers, docked at Terminal 1 Friday April 4, 2014 in Vancouver.

The Columbia River has powered this region's economy for hundreds of years.

Native American paddlers in dugouts relied on its waters as an artery of commerce.

Explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark rode the river toward the Pacific Ocean while checking out America's biggest real-estate deal.

Trading vessels docked on its northern bank after the Hudson's Bay Company headquartered its Northwest fur empire at Fort Vancouver.

But now a trip on the great river of the West isn't an artery for conducting business: It's the product.

Call it an alternate take on the familiar initials "CRC." They once stood for Columbian River Crossing, a now-defunct joint megafreeway project. In this case, they mean that Vancouver is generating some economic activity from Columbia River cruising.

Riverboat cruises — including one based in Vancouver — are putting the Columbia River on the travel map. Tours of the Columbia-Snake river system from Astoria, Ore., to Lewiston-Clarkston got major media coverage a couple of months ago. A couple of publications focused on the American Empress, which calls Vancouver its home port. The biggest riverboat west of the Mississippi is operated by American Queen Steamboat Co. of Memphis.

Read the full story here.