Organizers hope to use the year off to come up with an even better fair experience in the future
The Clark County Fair website says it best:
It’s not fair that there is no Fair this year.
In a normal year, the fairgrounds would have just finished its opening four days and organizers would have been looking forward to another six days of action.
There would have been youngsters screaming while on the rides. Hundreds of animals would have been on display. There would have been magic shows, small-stage talent shows, big-stage concerts. There is always demolition derby and/or monster trucks, and maybe even some extreme stunts by motorcycle riders. And everybody, it seems, loves to watch dogs jump off docks and into a pool.
Not this year, of course.
On Monday afternoon, there were maybe six cars parked around the fairgrounds administration office.
The gates were locked.
Doors were closed.
And, one of the most heartbreaking things for this reporter: Not an Elephant Ear in sight.
John R. Morrison, Jr., the fair manager and CEO, said he and his staff were saddened when they initially called off the fair for 2020. And even though this week is a huge reminder of that loss, Clark County Fair officials are getting a jump on 2021.
“We’ve got a great opportunity here to plan for a fair for a whole year,” Morrison said. “Let’s spend the time to make the 2021 fair a better fair. Start turning our attention to the future.”
He noted that in a normal year, soon after the fair, he and his staff would meet to figure out what went wrong, what went right. By the end of the year, things would slow down during the holidays. Then they would pick back up at the beginning of the new year to really prepare for that summer’s fair.
This year, after the initial shutdown across the state, they started working toward 2021.
In fact, the huge banner that can be seen from Interstate 5 was quickly changed to reflect the 2021 dates.
“We try to erase all negative indicators of what happened out here,” Morrison said. “As soon as we cancelled (the fair), we changed (the banner) to 2021.”
The website has a countdown, as well. As of Monday at 5 p.m., it was 360 days, 8 hours to go until Aug. 6, 2021.
Morris expects to have a fantastic fair in 2021. Still, he does feel for those who are missing this year’s fair, which he described as the crown jewel of the calendar at the fairgrounds.
“I don’t know if I’ve seen a decision in a long time that affected so many people,” Morrison said. “It’s far beyond the 200-or-however-many thousands of people who attend the fair. You’ve got volunteers. You’ve got employees. You’ve got children who have raised animals.
“The effect of cancelling the fair is far, far beyond ‘I didn’t get to (go on) some rides’ or ‘I didn’t get my favorite food.’ I like to think of it as one of the best family events that’s very affordable in Southwest Washington.”
The decision to cancel was not taken lightly, he said. And, he noted, it turned out every fair in Washington was also cancelled.
The Clark County Event Center, located on the fairgrounds, remains available for retail operations and a few other events, Morrison noted.
This past weekend, there was a spa show and a gun show. Another gun show is on the schedule for later in the year, too. For the most part, though, the event center is quiet these days, too.
Morrison said a retail event, such as the spa show, is allowed. Social distancing guidelines remain in effect, though. And any retail show is limited to 30 percent of what would be normal capacity.
The event center is accustomed to having gatherings all year round, of course. Morrison used a quilting show as an example. That is not retail, and because it attracts a large crowd, the center cannot allow it.
The event center, much like any other business, is keeping track of the rules and regulations regarding the pandemic. Its website will update any upcoming events.
In the meantime, Morrison and his staff are working in quiet conditions. The fairgrounds have not been this quiet during a typical Fair Week since the last time the fair was called off, in 1942 because of World War II.
The expectation, though, is the Clark County Fair will be loud and proud again next year, returning as the place to be for summer fun in Southwest Washington.