Students tell importance of keeping the fair

As members of this community and the Enumclaw High School FFA, we are writing this letter in the interest of voicing our opinion on the King County Fair. The King County Fair is very important to our town and we feel that it should not be discontinued. We have five main arguments in opposition of discontinuing the fair. The King County fair is a major part of our town; it promotes agriculture for our community, it could become profitable again, supports local town citizens and is the county level forum for hundreds of 4-H and FFA exhibitors.

First, the King County Fair has been hosted in Enumclaw since its move from Renton many years ago. We feel it has become an important part of our town with tremendous history and value. The Enumclaw Expo Center, also known as the King County Fairgrounds, still embraces a number of historical buildings and is one of the last traditional fairs around. With this fair being the oldest, continuously run fair west of the Mississippi we feel our town and county community should have pride enough to continue it. Though the fair’s attendance was showing a steady decline, we, as Enumclaw citizens, witnessed an increase in attendance this past year. The King County Fair is a way of bringing our community together, it is a part of our town’s identity. The fair incorporates activities for all ages. During the annual fair, numerous families in our town along with neighboring communities gather to involve themselves in this agricultural celebration.

In addition, the King County fair promotes agriculture for our community. Enumclaw is known for its small-town character. Agriculture has always been a strong industry in our community. We feel that with the ever-growing urban pressures that surround us, agriculture is slowly being pushed out of Enumclaw’s radar. With the pressure on our town to expand along with our neighboring communities, we sense agriculture beginning to shift down the list of priorities. We believe that an agriculturally-based fair hosted in our town is a great way to promote agriculture. The fair keeps our agricultural image which will ultimately help the progression of our town. One of the most recent debates has been over the equestrian center. Our rural image will help to promote this equestrian center. If the fair were to be discontinued we would lose most of this image making it harder to promote such things as the equestrian center. It is a way for Enumclaw to stay in touch with its agricultural practices. The King County Fair provides the opportunity for everyone to participate in and learn more about agricultural traditions. A traditional fair in our own town may possibly be one of the most effective ways to promote agriculture for our community and maintain our rural identity.

Furthermore, we feel that the King County Fair could be brought back to a profit. In previous years all of the fair’s income went directly to King County’s budget where it was used to support many projects excluding the fair. We feel if just a portion of the fair’s income was set aside and used to support and improve the next year’s fair we would see an enormous change. This budget would grow annually with the potential of eventually resulting in a near self-supporting fair. If this idea was to be practiced we would not find ourselves in this debate of whether or not the fair is successful enough to risk supporting, for it would be able to help support itself! We trust that this would not only result in an affordable fair but a fair that would provide a profit.

Moreover, the King County Fair supports many local citizens. Though the fair is currently a relatively significant expenditure, during its time of operation surveys show that a large majority of the visitors from other towns stop for food, beverages, gas and merchandise on their way out or into the fairgrounds. This proves the fair supports our local community and businesses. The fair also supports local farmers. Many local farmers bring their livestock to compete in the conformation division at fair in order to improve their herd. If their animals are awarded with a grand champion, reserve champion, or even a blue ribbon the price of their livestock has potential to increase in value. If they are in competition against other animals then it allows for their overall herd to improve in quality. The fair also supports local and neighboring citizens, for there are many contests to enter in. Exhibitors can enter their produce or a family recipe to be judged against others. There are activities for people of all ages at the King County Fair.

Finally, the issue that concerns us most, the King County Fair supports hundreds of 4-H and FFA members. As members of these organizations we are required to compete at the county level before qualifying for state. The King County Fair is our county level. If the fair were to be discontinued we would no longer have a county fair to qualify at. As far as FFA members are concerned, we would be forced to travel many miles to compete in another county fair. This would drive many members out of the livestock competitions, as well as the many other exhibitors that are involved in the arts and crafts, floral, and agricultural mechanic divisions. The 4-H members would very likely be forced to quit, for they would be losing a significant portion of their funding making it extremely hard for them to continue. Not only does this fair support Enumclaw 4-H but clubs from all over the county come to participate. FFA and 4-H provide tremendous opportunities to today’s youth. They are not clubs made for kids to socialize (though that is a part of it) but through these organizations we learn many life skills such as, leadership, responsibility, livestock knowledge, agricultural practices, public speaking skills, and occupational preparation for various majors. Today’s youth is our future and if we want agriculture to remain a strong part of Enumclaw we need organizations such as the 4-H and FFA to introduce this way of life to the youth of our town, so that we can continue these traditions in the future. Discontinuing this fair would deprive many of us kids from these immense opportunities our organizations currently provide us with.

We need this fair and so does the entire Enumclaw community. Are we really willing to throw away a fair with so much importance to our town because of a few challenges it has pushed upon us? We would like to think not.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Holly Norton, Enumclaw FFA president (ag issues member)

Russell Horton, Enumclaw FFA treasurer (ag issues member

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