Off The Press

August 3, 2010

By Chantelle Lusebrink

King County Fair: More than just a family outing

Chantelle Lusebrink Press reporter

Since 1863, King County families have traveled from near and far — by horse and vehicle — to reach the county’s annual fair.

Today, the King County Fair combines the best traditions of the past, but reinvents itself each year, so there is more for families to marvel at while spending quality time together.

This year is no exception, with local artists, rides and a world of invention and farming at the Enumclaw Expo Center.

Hear music by Emily Pratt, Phil Hansen, Boys of Greenwood Glen and the Allegro Women’s Ensemble while hunting for custom hand-thrown pottery and intricate quilts.If you’re a child at heart, the new Splashtastic area will let you indulge and cool down on fun waterslides, a Hawaiian Slip ‘n’ Slide and a water gun fighting station.

If you’re looking to do more than view the fair, you can participate by showing your musical prowess in a battle of the bands competition or by cooking up an entry for the red chili cook-off. For you home cooks, there’s a $350 grand prize to the winner.

But perhaps the single most important aspect of the fair is its educational component. Surprised? You shouldn’t be.

If you’re a fair regular, or even just a happenstance fairgoer, you’ve probably enjoyed walking through the stables full of livestock and gawking at the cuddly cats and rabbits.

Behind those leashes and stables are throngs of children and teens learning fundamental life skills through the 4-H and Future Farmers of America programs.

For instance, by breeding their animals, children learn the basics of genetics and how to avoid breeding genetic mutations in various species. By planting and growing crops, they learn the essentials of how to run and operate a farm and business. Finally, by sharing their projects with the public, they learn how to present their ideas and communicate effectively.

Each year, these children come to the county fair with hopes of earning a blue ribbon that not only tells others of their accomplishments, but earns them a place to show their work at the Puyallup Fair or the Evergreen State Fair. Without the county fair, they can’t earn qualification to the others.

But with the onset of the recession and slashes in government spending the past few years, the King County Fair has been the target of drastic budget cuts and faced with the threat of closure.

When faced with that threat this fall and winter, children and adult volunteers from the Southeast King County chapter of 4-H — which meets in Issaquah — rallied to save the fair and funding for their program, learning valuable lessons about government and advocacy.

Thanks in part to their voices, heard at countless King County Metropolitan Council meetings, in numerous media reports and even on the streets of Seattle as they protested, $50,000 was budgeted to run the fair this year.

So, this year, make a point to head to the King County Fair. You’re not only saving a piece of education for generations to come, but like its slogan says, you’ll really “Celebrate Homegrown” this year.

The fair runs from 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Aug. 12 and from 10 a.m. – 11 p.m. Aug. 13 and 14 at Enumclaw’s Expo Center, 45224 284th Ave. S.E. Admission is $5 for adults and $1 for children 15 and younger. Parking is free. Go to

On a side note:

This is a special Off the Press for me, as it’s my last.

After four-and-a-half years of working as the education reporter here, I’m leaving my position to attend graduate school in France.

I would like to thank everyone I’ve worked with for opening your homes and sharing your life’s stories at moments of triumph and tragedy. Thank you for trusting me, and this publication, to retell them fairly and accurately.

I will hold this community and my memories close as I take my next step.

Chantelle Lusebrink: 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment at

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2 Responses to “Off The Press”

  1. Floy Ziegler on August 4th, 2010 11:03 am

    Dear Editor;
    After reading the August 3rd article on King County fair by Chantelle Lusebrink, I wanted to thank your paper for supporting 4-H in King County. It was through the efforts from youth and parents throughout all of King County that the County Council found the $50,000 to help support our fair this year. Compared to over $300,000 last year, it has been a challenge and through the efforts and many hours of our youth and adult volunteers, we plan to have a great fair. We also must thank the City of Enumclaw for partnering with us and making this a great fun family friendly event.
    Again, thank you for supporting 4-H with your coverage of the City Enumclaw and King County Fair’s ” Celebrate Home Grown”.
    Floy Ziegler
    President, King County 4-H Association

  2. Brad Gaolach on August 4th, 2010 5:11 pm

    Thank you for your insightful article about the King County Fair and the 4-H program. As the Director for WSU King & Pierce County Extension, I wanted to provide some additional information about 4-H.

    4-H is the youth development arm of Washington State University Extension. Your article does a great job highlighting the life skills approach that 4-H employs. As an institute of higher education, we insure that the life skills taught, their method of delivery, and the outcomes are research-based – the root of all WSU Extension programming. The King County Fair is a showcase for youth engaged in yearlong activities, however there are many more youth involved in other 4-H educational programs who do not participate in the fair. WSU King County Extension, including the 4-H Youth Development program, is made possible by the long standing funding relationship between WSU Extension and King County Government, which has been in place since 1914. Through this joint agreement, WSU Extension provides a broad array of programming, including nutrition education for limited income adults and children, natural resources and innovative environmental programming, the King County Food and Fitness Initiative, and other programs which support the acquisition of life skills, support equal access to healthy food, promote economic development, and foster environmental stewardship to benefit the residents of King County

    Brad Gaolach

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