Updated for 2016
It’s August, otherwise known throughout the USA as Fair Season!
My childhood memories from the county fair where I grew up in rural Illinois are coated in sugar. Puffs of blue cotton candy, popsicles colored like the American flag, a plate of funnel cakes dusted with a heavy coat of sweet powder. Go to any county fair in America and a staple of decades-old culinary traditions like these will greet you and your sweet tooth.
Of course, some of the culinary delights of the American county fair have evolved. The strangely delicious corn dog has had to make room in the food vendor row for an odd array of items served to you fried on a stick, from twinkies to butter. That’s right – they serve deep-fried butter on a stick in Iowa. And deep-fried chocolate cheesecake on a stick in Colorado. California’s Sonoma County takes the concept high-brow by putting locally-grown artichoke hearts on a stick, dipping them in herby batter and frying them to a golden crunch.
The downside to eating fried, sugary foods for every meal at the county fair? No, it’s not the eye-popping calories. It’s that you have to try and keep it all down after a wild ride on The Scrambler. Not always possible, as I can attest.
From the best pig races to the crunchiest kettle corn, here are five great county fairs in Washington state that all take place over the next few weeks. Which is your favorite fair?
Mt. Vernon. August 10-13, 2016, 10am-10pm. Map.
“Absolute Grinsanity” – that’s the annual Skagit County Fair in a nutshell, set in the heart of one of Washington’s greatest agricultural regions. Over 20 food vendors will be on hand to sell fair delicacies such as fluffy balls of cotton candy and roasted corn on the cob. Enjoy carnival rides, a kid’s zone, live music including lots of bluegrass, magic shows and a hypnotist! Saturday August 13th hosts the fair’s popular car show.
Admission: $8 for adults and $6 for seniors and youth. Kids 5 and under FREE. Contact: (360) 416-1350.
Pt. Townsend. August 12-14, 2016, 10am-9pm (6pm Sunday). Map.
Come one, come all! The Jefferson County Fair kicks off Friday August 12 in Port Townsend. This beloved fair is all about celebrating the accomplishments of its citizens ranging from agriculture to crafts. Fun agri-attractions include mud drags, a motorized bucking bronco and horse pulls. Livestock like sheep and swine are joined by rabbits, dogs and other domestic animals for competitions through the 4-H. Bring your appetite of course – there’s a salmon BBQ on Saturday and a beef BBQ on Sunday.
Admission: Adults $8, students and seniors $6, children $2, ages 5 and under FREE. Contact: (360) 385-1013.
Elma. August 10-14, 2016. 10am-10pm (11pm Sat, 6pm Sun). Map.
“Through the Years.” Come to Elma for a hefty dose of rural nostalgia. The popular fair features dozens of carnival rides and games, animal exhibits and contests, a variety of fair food (pulled pork, deep-fried oreos, funnel cakes–ok now we’re hungry!), car races, floral displays and lots of live music.
Admission: $10 for adults and $6 for seniors and youth. Kids 5 and under FREE. Contact: (360) 482-2651
Langley. August 4-7, 2016, 9:30am-10pm (7pm Sunday). Map.
How big is your zucchini? Enter your best – prizes awarded for the heaviest, longest, ugliest and prettiest. Other fun festivities at the Whidbey Island Fair include lego contests, a carnival, parade, live music, plenty of food and so much more.
Admission: $8 for adults and $5 for seniors and youth. Kids 5 and under FREE. Contact: (360) 221-4677. Ferry info.
Bremerton. August 24-28, 2016, 10am-10pm (6pm Sunday). Map.
Step right up! Git yer deep fried oreos and curly fries! The Kitsap County Fair promises “Stars Stripes and Country Nights.” Cool events this year include hay scrambles, pie-eating contests and diaper derbies. Food vendors will serve up tacos and pierogies, and along with live rock n’ roll expect performers like fire-eaters, jugglers and magicians. Sounds like American country heaven.
Admission: $10 for adults and $7 for seniors and youth. Kids 5 and under FREE. Contact: (360) 337-5350
Live east of the Cascades? Many Eastern Washington county fairs take place in September when temperatures cool down a bit.
Don’t miss the Washington State Fair (aka “The Puyallup”) – it’s September 2-25, 2016 in Puyallup.