Early risers got to enjoy free breakfast, rides, and prizes at the fair
RIDGEFIELD — The three friends looked like they were hanging on for dear life.
No worries. They were in no danger.
It just appeared that way, “flying” in circles on the Cliff Hanger at the 2019 Clark County Fair.
Molly Walther, Carolyn Howard, and Maggie Hart, all of them 12 years old and students at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Vancouver, were the very first to ride the Cliff Hanger as the 151st edition of the fair opened Friday morning.
A light rain did not appear to keep fairgoers away, as they showed up early for a free breakfast. Pancakes were served beginning at 8 a.m. and the line continued to stretch throughout the fairgrounds two-and-a-half hours later.
The carnival rides and games of skill opened at 9 a.m.
Walther, Howard, and Hart were there, ready for action.
“She has a hair appointment,” Maggie Hart said, pointing to her mother, Kathy, as one of the reasons they were there so early.
“We have free tickets, and you have to come at a certain time,” Howard added.
The Harts moved to Vancouver three years ago. The fair is now a tradition.
Howard, too, said she has been coming to the fair “since she was little.”
This is at least the sixth time Walther has attended.
“Rides,” Walther said when asked why she comes every year.
“Food,” Howard said.
“I like to be able to run around and go to rides,” Hart said, adding that food is a priority, too.
“Basically, the whole thing,” Hart said — music to the ears of fair organizers.
Walther said she likes the roller coaster the best, “The Zillerator.”
The trio said they do not really want to go on the Ring of Fire, because that goes upside down. In fact, Howard said she does not like heights at all. But she did go on the Cliff Hanger.
“She was dying the whole time,” Hart said.
Hart added that she expects to come back to the fair during this 10-day run, to see the other attractions.
“Today is mostly rides,” she said.
While they were enjoying the rides, 8-year-old Caleb Alderman won a new friend. He was one of the first to win a prize at the carnival, aiming a water gun at a target. Technically, he was not the first to win a prize. His uncle, David Piper, won the first race and chose a stuffed S’more for his prize. (Don’t ask.)
But Caleb was the first under-10-year-old to win, when he refused to quit and beat his uncle on the last try.
The goal, Caleb said, is to “blow up the balloon. If it pops, then you win.”
How did it feel to take down his uncle in this game of skill?
“Aaaaa-mazing,” he said.
His reward: A monkey. (No, not a real one.)
Of course, the carnival must have employees to keep the customers safe and happy. This carnival has an international flavor, too.
Jamie-Lee Wilson came to America after finishing her studies in South Africa. She is working with Butler Amusements, traveling the west coast with the fair, meeting new people. The 23-year-old said an agency in South Africa helped set her up with this job in the states.
“Smile and be polite,” she said of the requirements for her job, on this day at a pop-a-balloon stand.
She arrived in America three months ago, starting in the San Francisco area and has worked her way north.
She said she enjoys interacting with children.
Wilson said she once had a little girl pop a balloon but did not want the prize. Wilson told her she could have a stuffed animal, take it home with her. Instead, the little girl said she just wanted to play. No prize necessary.
“You’re the cutest,” Wilson told her.
Every day, every customer, will bring new stories at the Clark County Fair this year.
For more information, including links to daily schedules, see our preview of the fair: