Lee Coumbs was one of many on and around the Community Stage at the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds on Sunday to shed a tear for the joy of the event’s return after COVID-19 while he described the hard work put in by countless volunteers to honor the work of kids in agriculture.
Ashley Hamilton, new head of the Spring Youth Fair — which is its own organization outside of the Southwest Washington Fair that reports to the state Department of Agriculture, founded by Coumbs and others — welcomed attendees to the event for her first time.
After Coumbs said a few words about how meaningful the spring fair was to him and the community, Hamilton surprised him with an award for 40 years of service to the organization.
In 1982, Coumbs was the manager of the Southwest Washington Fair. He wanted to hold an event where all children, even those outside of FFA or 4-H, could participate and show their skills, art and livestock.
Lynden and Puyallup both followed suit after Lewis County held its first Spring Youth Fair, too, which is a source of pride for Coumbs and others involved in the event.
After a two-year break for the pandemic, the Spring Youth Fair was cut back a bit this weekend. It no longer has a carnival or cat and dog entries. However, this year saw good attendance despite the torrential rain on Saturday. Coumbs said to the crowd Sunday that it hadn’t been cut down due to lack of interest from kids, but for less involvement from adult volunteers.
“We just hope we can keep everybody involved,” he said. “It’s got to keep going. That doesn’t mean I’m out, but I’ve gotta step back a little bit. (It’s) very meaningful. We’re a big family.”
Hamilton said her biggest challenge in the first year of the position was dealing with what was no longer available. For example, a lot of carnivals suffered during the pandemic, she said.
But, she said they were able to make the event fun anyways by asking kids what they wanted. Instead of a carnival, they had a room full of bounce houses, which Hamilton called “a huge hit.”
Many lessons were learned from her first year in charge, Hamilton said, but added that she couldn’t have done it without Coumbs, which is why they wanted to honor him with the award.
“We decided to go out of our way this year to present this award to him,” she said.
She also hinted that it may, eventually, become the annual Lee Coumbs award. For more information on the Spring Youth Fair, visit https://www.springyouthfair.org/.