‘Guessing Game’: The Southwest Washington Fair Is on for August, but Planning Proves Difficult

Meeting:  Fair Commission Members Say Locals Can Still Expect to See a Carnival, Food Vendors and Entertainment


The Southwest Washington Fair, held annually in August, usually takes a year to plan. But with summer on the horizon and COVID-19 still conferring restrictions on gatherings, this year’s fair will likely come together in the last month or so.

That’s according to the fairgrounds’ administrative assistant Fionna Velazquez, who added: “It’s a real guessing game at this point.”

Groups and businesses that usually fill up the fairgrounds in the summer or offer financial assistance are more hesitant to jump on board, as it’s still unclear what public health measures will be in place this summer.

“People are a little worried to sign a contract,” Velazquez said.

Last year, the fair was canceled altogether. And this week, some expected Lewis County to plunge into tighter COVID-19 restrictions, although a last-minute announcement by Gov. Jay Inslee paused any changes to counties’ status.

It all adds up to uncertainty for the iconic event.

Members of the Southwest Washington Fair Advisory Commission said this week that locals can still expect to see a carnival, food vendors, and entertainment. A rodeo is in the works, and a demolition derby will likely still take place. Food-wise, marketing specialist Pat Slusher Jr. said the fair this year will have squid on a stick, chocolate fried bacon and Dilly Dogs (pickle-stuffed corn dogs).

“We’re going to do as much as we can,” County Commissioner Lindsey Pollock said at the meeting, later echoing the sentiment at a county meeting Tuesday.

And in regards to maintaining public health measures, Velazquez said time frame tickets may be the answer. The idea is to link each ticket to a specific time of day to spread out attendance and ensure that participants can social distance.

Another option, advisory commission member Edna Fund noted, is creating special sections at the fairgrounds for those who are vaccinated against COVID-19. That option — where vaccinated individuals could be packed more tightly — would mean boosted capacity, and therefore ticket sales, for the fair.

But the idea could prove too politicized come August.

On Monday, Inslee announced updated COVID-19 guidance allowing spectator events to create sections specifically for vaccinated people. While supporters say it’s a step toward normalcy, one Southwest Washington state lawmaker, Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, has already compared the idea to “Jim Crow-like forced segregation.”

Regardless of what tool the fair uses to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, officials say locals can expect an event in August.

“There will be a fair. It will be held as safely, as legally as possible,” Fund said Tuesday. “There’s a lot of unanswered questions, but as things move forward hopefully those questions will be answered for us.”

In the meantime, the fair is also looking toward future years’ events. According to Fund, locals can expect to see a mail-out survey asking about their experience with the fair. The hope is to guide the direction of future fairs.