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County approves Enumclaw running 2009 fair

Editor's note: The following is a press release issued Monday afternoon by the Metropolitan King County Council. The city of Enumclaw has already voted to take responsibility for the 2009 fair. This Web site will have an updated story following Monday night's meeting of the City Council, which was to include an appearance by County Councilman Reagan Dunn.

The oldest county fair west of the Mississippi will this year come under the control of the city it calls home. The Metropolitan King County Council today adopted an interlocal agreement giving the city of Enumclaw responsibility for the operation of the 2009 King County Fair.

“I commend the city for stepping up to the plate and putting the Fair on with a very short lead time” said County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, prime sponsor of the ordinance. “The citizens of Enumclaw spoke out when the Executive tried to cut the Fair and now they are leading the way again. We will use this year to figure out how the fair can be sustainable into the future.”

The one-year agreement gives the city of Enumclaw control of the fairground site and the $311,000 subsidy King County has budgeted for the event. The County will transfer all of the personal property used for the fair to Enumclaw without charge. The city is also eligible for roughly $37,000 in financial support from the State of Washington.

Under the agreement, Enumclaw would be responsible for all aspects of the fair, from the timing and theme to the selection of vendors and entertainment. The city must provide competitions for 4-H and the Future Farmers of America (FFA) sufficient to allow participants to compete at the 4-H State Fair in Puyallup.

“Since before Washington was a state, the King County Fair has been an event for people to come together, enjoy King County culture, and participate in our agricultural heritage,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips, who as 2009 budget chair worked to restore funding for the fair. “I appreciate the efforts of the citizens of Enumclaw for their heartfelt efforts to keep this important tradition alive for the public to enjoy.”

“Last fall we could have lost an important piece of King County history,” said Councilmember Peter von Reichbauer. “However, because of the strong outpouring of community and regional support, the King County Fair has been preserved. I look forward to attending the fair for many more years to come, and working with Enumclaw leaders to expand its heritage.”

The King County Fair is the oldest county fair west of the Mississippi and a traditional celebration of King County's agricultural heritage. It has been a regional draw for organizations such as 4-H, FFA, and the equestrian community. However, attendance and revenue for the event at the Enumclaw Expo Center have declined in the last decade, leading the Executive last fall to propose eliminating the County’s funding of the event in his 2009 proposed budget.

During the budget deliberations, Councilmember’s offices were flooded with calls, e-mails and letters from residents advocating the restoration of funding for the Fair. After weeks of public testimony, including a Town Hall Meeting hosted by Councilmembers Dunn and von Reichbauer, it was clear the fair had community support and the County Council restored the Fair’s operating funds for one year.

The Council also created a King County Fair Task Force to analyze current fair operations and explore ways to attract the exhibits, programs and entertainment that will increase attendance and revenue at the fair. The first meeting of the task force will be held in two weeks and members will work with public and private sector leaders.

This year’s fair will take place July 16-18.

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