Here are two good reasons to keep the Thurston County Fair

Staff writerJuly 25, 2013 

Looking for reasons to support the Thurston County Fair? Jordan Smith and Racheal Ferdinand can think of a few.

The two young women have been fair mainstays for several years, showing animals and volunteering their time to help keep the financially strapped fair from falling by the wayside.

Smith, a 19-year-old South Puget Sound Community College student who lives with her family on a South Bay farm, credits her years of showing animals at the fair and participating in Future Farmers of America activities with teaching her about hard work, responsibility, agriculture’s role in society and even public speaking.

“These programs helped define who I am,” Smith said. “The fair is a family that has changed so many lives for the better.”

Smith attended her first county fair, the Southwest Washington Fair in Lewis County, when she was 2 weeks old, beginning a lifelong association with fair activities.

When she was 6 years old, she started showing rabbits at the Grays Harbor County Fair, where her mother was the superintendent of the rabbit barn.

Over the years, Smith has shown just about all the animals you’d expect to find on a farm, including poultry, goats, sheep, pigs and, for the past five years, cattle.

This year, the North Thurston High School graduate will be back at the Thurston County Fair, helping her mother run the poultry barn.

She spent the past year serving as treasurer of the Washington State Future Farmers of America. She was on the road six days a week, talking to students in some 1,500 schools all over the state about the important role agriculture plays in this state.

“Youth are less and less connected to where their food comes from or where their clothes come from,” she said. “That’s why the county fair is more important than ever before.”

The experience speaking to large assemblies of children helped her gain self-confidence and find her voice. “Before, I would have been terrified speaking in public,” she said.

Today she is a poised young lady with her sights set on a college degree in communications with a minor in Spanish so she can work for an American seed company that’s opening new markets in Latin America.

Ferdinand, a senior-to-be at Yelm High School, has honed her public speaking skills too, serving this past year as a Washington State 4-H ambassador. Next week, she’ll be at the Thurston County Fair, showing her 7-year-old pug named Mac. She’s an eight-year veteran of 4-H and the fair.

“I’ve grown up in the dog barn at the fair,” she said, an infectious smile spreading across her face.

Earlier this year, Ferdinand received a President’s Volunteer Service Award for spearheading efforts to raise $1,000 to repair the fence around the dog barn, which was destroyed during the ice and snow storm in January 2012.

Smith and Ferdinand think it would be a big mistake to cast aside the Thurston County Fair, which was established in 1871 but has struggled to stay afloat because of cuts in state and county funding.

It’s young people like Smith and Ferdinand who motivated the county commissioners to continue investing in the fairgrounds and the fair, including replacing three barn roofs this spring with the help of volunteers, County Commissioner Sandra Romero said.

“The fair engenders deep values in our youth,” Romero said as Smith and Ferdinand shared their stories with me and with her. “It gives kids a sense of pride and achievement, plus they learn about economics, sportsmanship, healthy food, agricultural science and entrepreneurship. A lot of people look at it as just a carnival, but it can be a life-changing experience for people.”

It’s also a great place to showcase the important role agriculture still plays in the local economy, she said.

The fair opens at 10 a.m. Wednesday and runs through 8 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 4. A good community show of support will go a long way toward ensuring a bright fair future. For more information about the 2013 Thurston County Fair, visit .co.thurston.wa.us/fair.

MINI LIBRARY DESTROYED, BUT WILL REBOUND

The Little Free Library that Jeanne Koenings built last July outside her 10th Avenue home in Olympia’s east-side neighborhood was smashed to pieces early Monday morning by an unoccupied, runaway taxi that careened down the steep street.

Before coming to rest, the runaway taxi also slammed into a recently remodeled garage at the corner of Lybarger Street and 10th Avenue, causing major damage.

The library on a post served as a book exchange for neighbors. With their help, Koenings said, she’ll be rebuilding the library just as soon as she can.

John Dodge: 360-754-5444 jdodge@theolympian.com

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