Come celebrate a “Big County Fair”

Hell’s Bells, which is a female ACDC tribute band, will play right after the rodeo on Friday night.

There’s so much fun, you’ll have a cow.

That’s the theme for this year’s Kitsap County Fair. And according to Jim Dunwiddie, director of the Kitsap County Parks and Recreation who works with the fair coordination, the fair will have all the favorites and some great new things for county residents and visitors to enjoy.

Among the new “fun” things this year is an arena concert.

“It’s just so expensive to bring in a big, big name for just one headliner concert,” he said. “So what we’re doing this year is bringing back a concert in the (Thunderbird) arena.”

Hell’s Bells, which is a female ACDC tribute band, will play right after the rodeo on Friday night.

Another new highlight is the Wenatchee Youth Circus which will perform an acrobatic circus on the high wire, in the center ring, on swinging ladders, and tumbling and trampoline acts. There will be four shows each on Friday and Saturday and two on Sunday. Shows are free with fair admission.

While the traditional beer garden will be back, Dunwiddie said this year the fair will also have a wine garden.

“It’s something that people have wanted,” he said. “And we’re going to try to offer wine parings with fair food.”

He’s looking forward to finding out what pinot noir goes with deep-fried Twinkies, he joked.

The wine garden, which will feature local wines, will be located outside of Presidents Hall. Hours are noon to 8 p.m. daily, except Sunday when it will close at 6 p.m. Those visiting the garden will be allowed to bring in food items purchased at the fair.

In the Pavilion, there will be more than 60 commercial exhibitors said Maaren Stroble, fair board member and director of commercial exhibits.

“This year, we’re setting up for better shopping,” she said. “Instead of straight rows that you just go up and down, we’re putting the vendors in groupings to make the shopping easier and more interesting.”

A host of new vendors and many more giveaways will be part of the commercial booths. Included are vendors showing novelty toys, nutritional products, kitchen gadgets and tasting opportunities of products like olive oil and dipping mustards. Women’s safety and self-defense products also will be shown.

And she said each day for the first 1,000 people through the doors of the Pavilion, there’s a special gift – reusable shopping bags.

“Each day there’s a different sponsor for the bags,” she said. “We’ve got Kitsap Bank, Safeway and Fred Meyer lined up.”

But Sunday’s giveaway bags are special for her. The sponsor is the Josh Wilson Distracted Driving Fund, named for her son who has come back from serious injuries due to an automobile accident in October 2011 when he was distracted by his iPod.

“He’s doing great and he graduated from CK (high school) this year,” she said. “Sponsoring the bags is a way of reminding others what can happen when you don’t pay attention while you’re driving.”

Stroble is in her second year as a volunteer board member. She committed to the work after her son, Josh, showed swine at the fair for more than five years as part of the 4-H program and FFA.

Another new thing this year is a farmers market that will be just outside the entrance gate sponsored by Kitsap Food Co-op.

Stroble said local farmers will offer fresh vegetables and other foods daily.

While there’s entertainment, carnival rides, food booths and commercial exhibits, the fair would not be the fair without animals and homemade jam.

Dunwiddie said there will be farm animals and cats and dogs to view, as well as photography and quilts and “typical fair stuff.”

“The 4-H exhibits and the homemade crafts are what lots of people come to the fair to see,” he said. “It wouldn’t be the county fair without that.”

This year the hot dog eating contest will return as well as a pie-eating contest featuring the mayors of Poulsbo, Bremerton and Port Orchard.

There will be displays of emergency vehicles and safety information. And on Sunday, the Destruction Derby will return for the first time in many years.

“It’s one of the old-time activities that kind of got pushed to the side,” he said. “But we’re bringing it back.”

Another highlight this year is the Gascar Crazy Animal Races, said fair manager Sunny Saunders.

“It’s billed as interspecies animal racing,” she said. “Last year we had pigs racing pigs. This year we’ll have pigs racing goats, sheep, chickens, miniature ponies and a variety of other animals.”

Fair-goers can catch the races three to four times a day outside the rodeo gate, she said.

This year marks the 90th Kitsap County Fair. The first-ever county fair was in 1923 in Port Orchard.

In 1958, the fair moved to Bremerton, to its present location on the Kitsap County Fairgrounds. In the early years there were about 1,000 exhibitors and today, there are more than 6,000.

Average attendance during the five-day fair is about 78,000 people, said Dunwiddie.

“We’re the largest county fair in Washington state,” Dunwiddie said. “We have more people attend and more activities than any other county fair.”

Preparation for the fair begins right after the previous year’s fair is over, he said. 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.”

This year, “There’s so much fun, you’ll have a cow,” was the winning entry.

Besides the annual theme, this year’s fair has a new logo – the big cowboy hat.

“We’re trying to brand our fair for the first time,” he said. “The cowboy hat denotes the fact that this is a big fair and that it has its roots in good old-fashioned country fun.”

Just what is he most looking forward to this year?

“Good weather and a great community event,” Dunwiddie said.