Hold on to your hat – The Kitsap County Fair & Stampede’s coming!

For more than 90 years residents of Kitsap County, their friends and neighbors have enjoyed all the elements of a down-home county fair. This will be the 94th Kitsap County Fair & Stampede, from Aug. 23 to 27 at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds in Bremerton.

The Kitsap County Fair & Stampede takes place annually for the purpose of educating, entertaining and creating a better quality of life for the residents of Kitsap County and surrounding counties, according to members of the fair board.

It teaches youth historical lessons so they may better understand what has shaped Kitsap County to become what it is today and what it will become in the future, board members said.

It promotes agriculture so that consumers may better understand the source of their food and fiber. It also provides information to consumers so they may make better choices of products and ideas in their own lives. Competitive exhibits are another one of the tools that it used to educate customers.

And there’s always a lot to do.

On the midway at the fairgrounds, there will be a full array of carnival rides by Davis Amusements, and a separate section of rides at the Kiddie Carnival for the younger kids. Visit all the 4-H exhibits, including animals and textiles, and the exotic bird section. Competitive adult exhibits are located in Presidents Hall. And, of course, there will be many food booths and a full selection of food in the Van Zee building. Come get your favorite — corn dog, hamburger, scone, cotton candy or ice cream, just to mention a few.

Inside the Kitsap Sun Pavilion, merchants and nonprofits will tell you about their products or what they do. Be sure to save time to meander through the rows and rows of great gifts, home improvement items, and handy-dandy gadgets.

Many people come to the fair to see the livestock. This year the barns will be full and there’ll be cows, pigs, lambs, cats, dogs and rabbits to see.

One of the highlights of the fair is the rodeo and stampede. Things get started on Wednesday night with the Xtreme Bulls. Come out and see the top bull riders in the country compete for the $10,000 purse and earn points in standings for the final Xtreme Bulls competition. The PRCA Xtreme Bulls Tour showcases the PRCA’s top bull riders and some of the rankest bulls the world has to offer. The bull riders include contestants who advance through Xtreme Bulls qualifying events. It starts at 6:30 p.m.

On Aug. 24, 25 and 26, there’s rodeo action every evening beginning at 6:30 p.m. Each night competition will take place in eight events: bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, barrel racing, and bull riding. Members of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association will travel to Kitsap County and will compete for the best in each category. Amateur contestants also will take part.

The Kitsap Destruction Derby is set for the last day of the fair, Aug. 27 in the Thunderbird Arena. Gates open at 2 p.m. Time trials begin at 4 p.m. and racing is set to begin at 5 p.m.

Major music entertainment will include Shameless, on Wednesday night after the rodeo; Daryle Singletary on Thursday, The Olson Bros Band on Friday and the Michael Anthony Pratt Band on Saturday. These concerts are free with that day’s fair admission and will happen on the stage at the Cowboy Corral, near Thunderbird Stadium. Concerts are expected to begin at 8:30 p.m.

Entertainment on the “Pepsi community stage” includes the annual diaper derby contest, the bubble gum blowing contest, animal calling contest, and don’t forget the seed-spitting contest. Local talent includes the Farragut Brass band, Slieveloughane Irish Dancers, Kitsap Square Dancers and the Whisker Club Contestants with Bruce Roe. All of this is hosted by Cowboy Buck and Elizabeth Stierle.

On the West Hills Auto Stage, performances include returning fair favorites such as Karen Quest – Cowgirl Tricks, a unique fun-filled Vaudeville-style western comedy act complete with trick roping, whip cracking, music and lots of surprises. She also performs on stilts as “Lucky Starr,” an eight-foot tall cowgirl, as she engages audiences with her special brand of Western humor; and Kevin Wolfe Comedy Hypnosis, a fast paced and funny hypnosis show that will keep everyone laughing. With Wolfe’s special improvisational style, you never know what’s going to happen.

Rhys Thomas and his JuggleMania also performs.

Other fair entertainment includes shows daily at 1:30 p.m. On Wednesday: Kitsap County Fair Senior contest sponsored by the Bremerton Senior Center;

Thursday: the Kitsap County Fair dance contest, sponsored by Irene School of Dance; Friday: hotdog eating contest sponsored by the Smokin’ Robinsons restaurant; and Saturday: the Kitsap County pie eating contest.

The first recorded Kitsap County Fair happened in 1923 in Port Orchard, some 15 miles from its present location. It was held in Port Orchard from 1923 to 1929. Then it moved to Roosevelt Field in Bremerton. It moved to its present location in 1958.

In 1929, exhibitors at the fair totaled 1,000; today there are more than 6,000, with annual attendance of 80,000.

In the late 1950s, the Chief Kitsap Stampede sold stock certificates for $1 and constructed the Thunderbird Arena. When completed it held 12,000 spectators. In the late 1970s, portions of the arena were condemned. The covered grandstands were later added. Today the arena holds 5,000 spectators and is used year-round for various events such as Destruction Derby, draft horse show, monster trucks and more. The complex has an annual overall attendance at its various events of more than 211,000.

Preparation for the fair begins right after the previous year’s fair is over, according to Jim Dunwiddie, director of the Kitsap County Parks and Recreation. And on the Saturday two weeks before the fair, more than 300 volunteers come out for “Super Saturday.”

“Volunteers put fresh paint on many of the buildings and clean up the fairgrounds,” he said. “These are the people who make sure we’re ready to open.”

He noted, too, that many of the members of the fair board work full time and take vacation the week of the fair so that they can be there to help.

“They’re really very dedicated folks,” he said.

Each year the fair board also looks over a list of suggested themes that have been submitted from fair supporters, he said.

“We’ve had lots of suggestions and we keep track of them,” he said. “The board sits down after the last fair and chooses the theme for the coming year.”

The theme chosen for this year is “Hold on to Your Hat.”

For more details, or to download a map of the fairgrounds, go to www.kitsapgov.com. The fairgrounds is located at 1200 Fairgrounds Road NE, and there is plenty of parking on the grounds and in nearby lots.

Hold on to your hat - The Kitsap County Fair & Stampede’s coming!