San Juan County Fair goes virtual

  • Thu Jul 9th, 2020 1:30am
  • News

No matter what phase the county is in when fair dates arrive, the board, staff and volunteers have been working hard to ensure a San Juan County Fair will occur Aug. 12-15.

“The direction right now is to do the best we can within a small window and what works with our current phasing and regulations,” San Juan County Fair Fairgrounds and Events Manager Jennifer Allen said.

Attending the fair will be free, she noted, however, a donation drive is in the works.

“This is more in the spirit of giving, what you can to keep the fair relevant as it transforms with new ideas and ways of participating,” Allen said.

The goal of the drive will be $10,000, Allen added, noting VALMARK and LUXCEL have already provided donations toward the 2020 fair. To hold a virtual fair, Allen explained, she was tasked with staying under an $80,000 budget. That budget, she clarified, did not include funding for year-round staff.

Many of the changes make sense administratively and open up greater participation for all island residents, Allen said.

“It’s the goal to achieve high participation from all the islands, to change the view of the fair being island-centric,” Allen said. “Our islands’ communities are ready to reach out to each other.”

Two examples of engaging all the islands are food and entertainment.

No food will be on-site at the fairgrounds and, according to Allen, many off-island vendors are unable to come anyway because of the lost revenue due to the pandemic closures in the spring. As a result, the opportunity for increased local restaurant participation has opened up.

Allen explained that staff is working with and encouraging restaurants on all the islands to offer specials that week or fair-specific foods, which would be listed on the event’s website and social media. Virtual fairgoers would then contact the restaurants directly to order food.

“This has potential to be really great,” Allen said. “All establishments in the county can participate. They are no longer confined to the four days in August on San Juan Island.”

For entertainment, a call will be going out soon for local performers, according to Allen.

“We are looking for the ability to either live-feed an act, or have pre-recorded ‘concerts’ that we can share on our YouTube channel,” Allen said. “Staff and the fair board are brainstorming some pop-up 30-minute concerts and high noon game ideas to be hosted on ferry served islands.”

These events would be minimally advertised, Allen said, occur outside with enough space for participants to socially distance themselves, and masks would be required.

A fairgrounds specific Mindcraft realm is also in the works, according to Allen, that would be open for participation throughout the week.

The county’s 4-H clubs have been designing their own virtual competitions. As with the rest of the fair, they are accepting exhibits as of July 1. Participants will need to upload photos of the exhibit.

Club members with animals will be provided instructions about submitting videos for showmanship.

“All the animal 4-H’ers are encouraged to do showmanship,” WSU Extension San Juan County 4-H Program Coordinator Wendy Waxman Kern said.

Judges will watch each video and present ribbons. Depending on permission from the participants at least some of the videos may be available for the public to watch.

According to Waxman-Kern, there will also be virtual auctions. Details are still being hashed out, she said, but there will be a livestock auction.

To enter exhibits, visit https://www.sjcfair.org/. Early entries are available from now until Aug. 1. Online entering will likely be kept and expanded upon for future fairs, Allen said.

“It just makes the superintendent’s lives so much easier,” she added.

“It will be a fair like no other,” textile co-superintendent Krispi Staude said.

Staude, co-supervisor Christy Hinkle, and textile volunteers will be accepting photographs of home-sewn items, and there will be a People’s Choice award every day. Staude added that blue, red and white ribbons awarded for children under the age of 16.

Staude also noted that since many textiles are really only accessible in-person, textiles is only allowing photo entries this year, they can be entered in-person next year.

“People are so busy making stuff with the mandatory lockdown, I’m afraid of the quantity we will see in 2021,” Staude said, adding that one category this year is “Stir Crazy,” where participants can enter an item they made that kept them from going crazy through the pandemic.

“This was not an easy decision,” Allen said, explaining that the fair board and staff took into account the demographics of all the islands; the health and safety of all participants; finances; transportation issues on top of the closures; and phased opening process.

“Two months and minimal staff is a very short turn around time to implement all the ideas for this transition,” Allen said. “The goal is to keep it simple, do it well and continue to implement these new ideas and more for future fairs.”