The County Fair: A community reunion and more

Submitted by the Transition Waste Reduction Group.

There is just one annual event that celebrates the many blessings of the good life in our small community. Since 1906 the San Juan County Fair has rarely been disrupted; only during the two World Wars and the COVID 19 outbreak. After nearly three years this return to a four-day celebration for Islanders by Islanders feels wonderfully familiar. But if you think about the ramifications of large public gatherings through a lens of resource conservation and community resilience, as we do, you will be pleased to know that significant changes are afoot.

Many people are working hard to make this year’s renewal of the mid-August tradition a reality. Many people are working hard to make this year’s renewal of the mid-August tradition a reality. The fair will run from Aug. 17-20 and more information is available at

There are also important developments behind the scenes with the old infrastructure and management practices at the County Fair Grounds. Our group, the Waste Reduction Team within Transition San Juan Island, feels strongly that fairgrounds and the fair itself ought to become a showcase of community innovation and adaptation in challenging times.

There will be booths, diet-busting food, music, electioneering, fun rides, displays of remarkable community talents and of course the quirky homegrown events; Chicken Races, the Zucchini 500 and Trashion Fashion. The latter spectacle was born in New Zealand in 2004 as an effort to highlight reducing solid waste by reusing and repurposing items found in the trash to fabricate unique garments; an ecological fashion statement! Make no mistake, we love the event; it sheds an oblique light on our prodigious waste stream here.

For the first time, there will be food waste receptacles for composting and other containers to separate out recycling and trash. The compostable food scraps will go to Skagit Soils. Fair staff and volunteers ask for your help to make this a success. Stop in at the Department of Environmental Stewardship booth to take the Compost Facility Survey and let them know what you think about the effectiveness of comingled recycling. What do you think about a glass grinding facility on San Juan? Did you know that glass and compostable waste comprise just about 50% of our total waste stream by weight?

Many food vendors are following the state law to only offer toss-out plastic if requested. Spend your money with those vendors, commend them for reducing waste and the high trash costs incurred by tax-paying Islanders. Bring your own water bottle, washable utensils and a reusable bag for your fair bling!

We trust that you will take pride in the impressive new solar array capturing the power of the sun on the roof of the Main Building. Inquire about other efforts to remodel fairground buildings to lessen precious water and fossil energy use. Take a moment to chat with our OPALCO representatives about innovative projects, opportunities to save money while conserving energy, and the critical importance of rate negotiations with the Bonneville Power Administration looming in 2028. Finally, don’t forget to visit the Stewardship Network’s Green Village for inspiration from local groups making a tangible difference.