Opening day featured, animals, arts, crafts, music, food and more
RIDGEFIELD — Curly enjoys laying down, moving his head around to take a look and all those who are taking a look at him.
When he sees a snack, his lips form an ‘O’ as if he is pleasantly surprised. He might as well be saying, “Ooooh, is that for me?”
As stunning as he is, one cannot truly see his full beauty until he rises.
But Curly is a showman, too.
When he is asked by his handler to stand up, Curly takes his time. Instead of standing up immediately, he crawls — yes, Army crawls — toward the snack.
His handler, Jeff Siebert of La Center, does not fall for it, though. In order for Curly to get the snack, Curly must stand.
Then it happens.
This 16-year-old camel sturdies one front leg underneath him, and then the other, and all of a sudden, we see all of Curly, all 8-feet, 6-inches of him.
And those around him go “woooooaaah.”
That’s Curly the Camel.
And that is the experience of the Clark County Fair.
The wow factor.
The 2023 Clark County Fair opened Friday morning with a later-than-usual arriving crowd. With no free pancake breakfast this year, the fair opened at 10 a.m. By 11, it was not as crowded as previous opening days. But by noon, Google maps showed red and orange on I-205 and I-5 just before the exit for the Clark County Fairgrounds.
Fairgoers were in search of that atmosphere, those wow moments.
Curly the Camel and Friends will be there for 10 days. So, too, will DogTown. There’s an exhibit called Wizard’s Challenge, with a lot of fun science projects. And we dare you to try to walk through a dragon’s lair, with lights spinning all around you, without needing to grab the safety rail.
On opening day, a parade was scheduled for 2 p.m.
There’s milkshakes, shaved ice, burgers, elephant ears and more fair food. There are carnival rides, some that are slower paced for the youngest of riders, and then some crazy, chaotic, seemingly gravity-defying rides for the truly brave.
“It’s a tradition,” said Kelly Motzkus of Woodland, who brought her seven children to the fair for opening day. “Every year, we’ve done the Friday, and we come back again. Sometimes we come back for the last day. We enjoy looking at the animals and going through the commercial buildings.”
The seven children range in age from 5 months to 15 years. Zack, the teenager, was going to go on rides by himself this year. He has grown up coming to the fair every year it has been open.
One of their first stops for the family this year was to see Curly.
For Curly and Friends, this is a return to the Clark County Fair after an eight-year absence. The last time, Curly was at the fair for three days. This year, he’ll be there for the full 10-day run.
“They called me this year and said, ‘We’d really like to have Curly be part of the fair,’” Siebert said. “My heart was like, ‘Yes!’ because I am all about the community and changing people’s lives. ‘I’ll be there.’”
Yes, this majestic animal can have a lasting effect on those who see him.
About a year ago, Jeff and Curly went to a retirement center in Longview. An old man stood about 10 feet from Curly and just started crying.
“Are you OK, sir?” Siebert asked. “He said, ‘I’m 94 years old, I’ve never seen a camel, and I just had to come out of my room.’”
Two weeks ago, at the same retirement center, a 77-year-old woman said the same thing. She ended up getting a chair, sat down, and just stared at the wonder that is Curly.
Siebert also took Curly to a local hospital during the peak of the pandemic. It was a shift change. Nurses were going home, while others were coming to work. Many stopped to get their picture taken with Curly.
“It’s not me. It’s God using me and Curly to change people’s days, to change their lives for that moment,” Siebert said.
Curly’s friends include Jethroe the Donkey, Barney and BamBam, two goats who ate their sign on Thursday night. Then there is Sammy the cow. Plus babydoll sheep: Bert, Ernie, Kobe, and Tank. Plus a few more goats, Teddy, Furby, and Diamond. They all travel together.
Siebert grew up in Clark County and the fair. His mother used to joke that Jeff was a part-owner of the lost kids’ booth because he was always getting lost at the fair back in the day. A 1976 graduate of Battle Ground High School, he and his wife Marilyn always loved animals and their ability to share their love with people.
“I lost my wife to cancer seven years ago. This is what she’d do. She’d love this, right here,” Jeff Siebert said, pointing to families taking a look at Curly.
And that is why Jeff, Curly, and Friends are at the Clark County Fair this year.
“To put some smiles on people’s faces,” Jeff Siebert said. “For people who have never seen a camel, for them to have that experience. That’s what it’s about. I want to share Curly with everybody. That’s who I am.”
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