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Council asked to take on the fair

King County’s request that the city of Enumclaw put on this year’s fair has been studied and debated, with the numbers crunched and analyzed.

In the end, city officials, including Mayor John Wise, decided putting on the fair was a reasonable move.

The city council has to agree, and the matter was slated for a decision during Monday’s night’s council session.

The fair has endured a rocky road in recent years, winding up a shadow of its former self in July 2008 with just a fraction of its former attendance. King County Executive Ron Sims decided it was time to pull the plug and put no money for a fair in his proposed 2009 budget.

Fair supporters rallied and, eventually, a bit more than $300,000 was placed in the county budget for the 2009 fair. Shortly after, the county asked the city to take over sponsorship of the event, which takes place at the Enumclaw Expo Center.

When the idea was first sent to council members, they supported the concept, but wanted more details. What they were to receive Monday was a proposal that included an anticipated budget.

Monday was a key issue.

“The only way the council would do it, and the only way I would recommend it,” was if the fair could be operated at no expense to the city, Wise said.

Larry Fetter, who heads the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, said several crucial issues had been worked out.

For example, the agreement notes that the city would take over the fair for one year only; council had been worried about getting roped into a long-term deal.

A benefit to operating the fair, Fetter said, is that the city gets more control over the use of the grounds. Presently, the county has rights to the Expo Center for 16 days to put on the fair. The city figures it can get everyone in, and out, in less time, Fetter said, thus freeing up some days for other uses.

Fetter believes the city can do a better job than King County did in 2008. A big thing, he said, would be getting a carnival back into the mix; it’s late in the season, he said, but tentative discussions have been made.

“Nothing is inked, but we still have the opportunity,” Fetter said.

The long-term future of the fair is linked to a task force that will study the issue and come up with a series of recommendations. That group was mandated as part of the county’s budget process and will begin meeting shortly, Wise said.

Reach Kevin Hanson at khanson@courierherald.com or 360-802-8205.

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