Music

Northwest Washington Fair

A fair love affair

Thursday, August 13, 2015

To know me is to know that the only thing I love more than a Swedish pancake breakfast (never forget) is the Northwest Washington Fair, more commonly known as the Lynden Fair.

Every year, I look forward to it. Every year, my expectations are high. Every year, it seems like I must be setting myself up for a letdown.

But, nope.

The Fair never lets me down. It never disappoints. It never leaves me feeling like it could’ve somehow been bigger, better, more. Instead, it is everything I need it to be, year in and year out.

The Fair never fails.

Over the years, I have honed what I feel to be the ultimate day at the Lynden fairgrounds (although, if I’m being honest I should confess that I often undertake multiple outings to the Fair, such is the intensity of my love).

Upon arrival, I typically take a few minutes to get my bearings while watching acts on the Festival Stage. A mix of regional and local performers, this year’s roster includes performances by Vertical String Band, the Honeybees, Travl’N Opry, Big Swing Band, one-man band Eric Haines (juggling and unicycling included), comedy, twice-a-magic and hypnotist shows, comedy and variety shows and more. The performance free for all is indeed free for all, and the stage is buzzing with all manner of activity from 10am until 9:30pm.

After that, I mosey my way to the livestock barns, paying special attention to the chickens, goats and any animals that have just given birth. Usually I witness pigs fighting, as they seem to not always play well with others, before heading to the Small Animal Experience, where I jockey for a front-row spot to see the baby and miniature animals, fighting crowds of the children for whom the exhibit is actually designed. The Fair played host to camels for the first time last year, and they were such an unqualified hit that they’ve returned to provide the event with a decidedly exotic air. Last year, I happened upon a goat costume contest, and it continues to be one of the highlights of my entire existence, which either speaks to how compelling costumed goats are or how limited my existence is—or possibly both. Should I not see the same this year, I will console myself by checking out Dock Dogs, in which dogs of all sizes and skill levels run fast, fling themselves from a wee dock and into a pool of water. What could possibly go wrong?

Then, it’s time to ride the Zipper and whatever other rides appear appealing, before checking out the vendors and exhibits in the fairway, attempting games of chance only to lose miserably, carefully selecting which airbrush tattoo will temporarily adorn my body, getting my photo taken and made into a giant button that has exactly zero practical applications and basically taking in as much of a slice of Fair life as possible. Having worked up an appetite at this point, it is imperative to invest in Fair fare, which can include anything from a mediocre gyro to an excellent brick of French fries to a smoked turkey leg to a cheeseburger to whatever other self-indulgent foodstuffs tickles my fickle Fair fancy—all to be washed down with a giant cup of lemonade.

It’s usually at this point that I realize that I’m running late for whatever Grandstand performance I have tickets to, which, for the past few years, has included the ever-popular demolition derby (Aug. 17)—although I must confess a more-than-lingering interest in the PRCA Rodeo (Aug. 18-19) as well. The powers that be have scaled back this year’s Grandstand musical acts to two nights, along Christian and country music themes. The first of the two is Christian rockers Skillet (Aug. 20), who nabbed a couple of Dove awards last year, boasts a group of loyal fans called “Panheads,” and, more pertinently, have proven their popularity with platinum record sales.

Following them is country megastar Terri Clark, known for her fancy guitar work, take-no-prisoners attitude and her multiple platinum records. Hailing from Alberta, Clark is country to the core, having shared stages with Reba McEntire, George Strait, Brad Paisley and similar heavy hitters. Lest you doubt her chops, she remains the female Canadian artist to be granted membership into the Grand Ole Opry. The Lynden Fair has a history of booking worthy country artists, and they show up ready to show out.

The last item on my well-practiced Fair agenda is always dessert. Of course, the natural choice is the Fair’s signature sandwich, the Moo-wich, a delectable treat that involves two homemade chocolate chip cookies bookending a generous slab of vanilla ice cream. It is the stuff of the gods (whichever ones you subscribe to), and to say I’ve eaten my weight in them over the years is probably only very slightly an exaggeration. If you want to honor Lynden’s proud Dutch roots, you’ll line up for poffertjes, which are tiny, fluffy pancakes of my dreams and diary entries. However, my sweet tooth lives for my once-a-year indulgence in the deep-fried wonder that is funnel cake, and they beckon to me from the glowing yellow booth where they are being constantly manufactured.

At that point, if I’m not sugar-drunk and overstimulated beyond function, I will try and cram in one final ride before the Fair gives me the side-eye and tells me to hit the road or give up my lovely Bellingham existence and accept my inevitable destiny as a carny.

The only thing left to do then is meander my way to the parking lot, attempt to remember where the car is parked and start dreaming of next year’s Northwest Washington Fair.

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