By all rights, you should be reading this morning about the pancake breakfast kicking off the opening day of the Clark County Fair. There would have been photos of kids and sausages and syrup, and an “If you go” box with today’s hours and highlights.
Of course, there is no fair this year. It’s a dirty shame, in my opinion, but I understand the reasons.
As any member of the newsroom staff will be glad to tell you when I am out of earshot, I am over-invested in the fair. In fact, I love all county fairs.
When I was a kid, the Grant County Fair was the highlight of the summer. (Actually, in Moses Lake in the 1970s, the fair was probably the highlight of the year.) The local bank sold promotional fair buttons, which doubled as a season pass, and we were always excited when my dad brought them home. I kept mine for years.
Later, as a young reporter, I met my wife while I was covering the Okanogan County Fair. She was putting on a seminar for fair judges, teaching them how to rate baked goods. We bonded over her angel food cake. More recently, before she retired a few years ago, she coordinated two booths at the Clark County Fair, including Germ City, which teaches kids how to properly wash their hands. I think she is still the 4-H food preservation superintendent.
Our daughter entered her first fair contest when she was 5 years old, as I recall, and eventually ended up with more ribbons and trophies than I could count — and college scholarships from the fair and Clark County 4-H. One year, then-Sen. Don Benton paid several hundred dollars for one of her champion market rabbits.
I don’t enter any fair contests, but back when The Columbian ran the fair information booth, I used to proudly stand my shift on the last Sunday of the fair while we waited to take the rabbits home after closing. And in my editing role at The Columbian, I came up with and assigned virtually every fair story that has appeared in the paper for the last 20 years.
Exhaustive coverage of the fair didn’t start with me. I remember back in the 1980s and 1990s Columbian columnist Dave Jewett would spend the whole week at the fair.
Although I would confess to passion for Ridgefield Lion Burger Baskets and the demolition derby, I think it’s the sense of community that most attracts me to county fairs. Fairs connect us. I know that I often run into people I know at the fair.
Local newspapers are another way to create that sense of community. In a world filled with online options, you can get news and information from anywhere. But The Columbian is the place to get news about a big fire in Vancouver, roadwork on Interstate 5, and, of course, the Clark County Fair. By reporting on our shared experiences, we foster that sense of community.
This will be an important point to remember this year. With a presidential election looming, a lot of people right now are working very hard and spending a fortune to increase divisiveness in our society. Social media is their main tool. If you are on social media, have you seen posts from “friends” that made you angry?
I thought so.
That’s not all, of course. Soon, we will see a bunch of those angry, misleading political attack ads on television.
So that is why I am missing the Clark County Fair this year. I think that in what looks to be the most divisive year of my lifetime (and I can at least dimly remember Vietnam and Watergate) we could all use a reminder of community.
Sadly, we won’t be providing it with our fair coverage this year. But as this difficult and disappointing year marches to its fourth quarter, we are going to be looking for stories that will try to connect us. That’s an important part of our mission here at The Columbian, and one that I wouldn’t give up even for a Clark County Dairy Women’s fresh marionberry milkshake. But, oh, those are so good!