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Saturday, September 30, 2023
Sept. 30, 2023

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Fair alternatives: Attractions at Clark County Fair are long on enjoyment, short on lines

By , Columbian Editor
11 Photos
Fred Meyer volunteers cook and serve thousands of pancakes during the annual free pancake breakfast on opening day of the Clark County Fair.
Fred Meyer volunteers cook and serve thousands of pancakes during the annual free pancake breakfast on opening day of the Clark County Fair. (The Columbian file photos) Photo Gallery

After two years’ absence, the Clark County Fair opens its 10-day run Friday. Summer’s Best Party has created well-known traditions over the years, from the opening day pancake breakfast to the monster truck finale.

But for every well-known attraction, there’s a lesser-known but equally worthwhile option. Here are five things everyone likes at the fair, along with five alternatives you might like better:

What everyone likes: The opening day Fred Meyer free pancake breakfast. The line is long, but the food is good and the price is right. Get there close to 8 a.m. on Friday as it’s first come, first served, and the line will be cut off when it reaches capacity.

What you might like better: The Ridgefield Lions serve a delicious breakfast every morning of the fair from their booth in the northeast corner of the food court. Yes, you have to pay for it, but if you go on opening day you can sit and eat in comfort while watching the people standing in line for an hour or more for a free pancake.

What everyone likes: Clark County Dairy Women’s milkshakes. There’s no question that the shakes are delicious, especially the ones made with fresh fruit. Thus long lines form on hot days.

Insider tips:

1. Everyone wants to use the restrooms in the white building at the south end of the food court, but there’s often a line. Try the restrooms on the northeast side of the food court near the fair office, or under the grandstand. Neither is usually crowded.

2. Instead of buying one of those sugary drinks in the refillable cups, get free ice water from Clark Public Utilities in the commercial exhibits area inside the air conditioned Event Center. It’s so refreshing!

What you might like better: Rhubarb pie a la mode. Almost directly across the midway from the Dairy Women, the Community of Christ Church sells delicious homemade pie in a variety of flavors. If you ask nicely, they’ll warm your slice, and add just enough soft-serve vanilla ice cream. Another option: If you are tired of all the fried food, this booth sells delicious made-to-order sandwiches. And there’s a row of indoor counter seating if it’s hot or raining.

What everyone likes: The Slingshot. OK, not everyone wants to ride this giant rubber band with a chair suspended between two tall poles, hurling you into the sky when the trigger is released. But it is arguably the fair’s most thrilling attraction.

What you might like better: The Giant Wheel. The largest of the Butler Amusements Ferris wheels offers large, comfortable cars that give you a view from approximately 100 feet above the fairgrounds. Go at sunset to see not only the lights of the carnival midway, but the rosy glow on Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood as the fading sun colors their slopes.

What everyone likes: The Dock Dogs. Located in a grassy amphitheater just east of the large Exhibition Hall, there are frequent shows throughout the fair. On command, dogs take a running start and leap into a swimming pool after a thrown toy. Longest jump wins!

What you might like better: The 4-H dog agility trials. Pull up a bench to watch this contest, which begins at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 13 on the east side of South Hall 3 (the big yellow building). Youthful dog owners will put pooches through their paces, scrambling up inclines, leaping hurdles, diving through tunnels and showing bravery in the face of the dreaded vacuum cleaner.

What everyone likes: Monster trucks. The shows, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Aug. 14, traditionally pack the fair on its closing day. The roar can be heard for miles as trucks wheel around in the dirt and crush some derelict cars.

What you might like better: Tuff Trucks. The competition is homegrown and unpredictable as local drivers try their hand at negotiating a series of obstacles with specially modified vehicles, or perhaps a borrowed Cherokee. Let’s hope they wash it, and maybe fix the driveline, before they return the Jeep to Grandpa. Check it out at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Aug. 12 and Aug. 13.

Whatever you do, have fun at the fair. And bring sunscreen. No one wants a sunburn.