Fun at the Thurston County Fair is as simple as A, B, C

Contributing writerJuly 25, 2013 

The Thurston County Fair opens Wednesday and runs through Sunday, Aug. 4.

STEVE BLOOM — The Olympian Buy Photo


    What: The old-fashioned fair features rides, exhibits, animals, entertainment, vendors and, of course, lots of food.

    When: From 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Wednesday-Aug. 3 and from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Aug. 4.

    Where: Thurston County Fairgrounds, 3054 Carpenter Road SE, Lacey.

    Tickets: At the gate, they’re $7 for adults, $6 for ages 60 and older, $5 for ages 6-14, free for children 5 and younger. Wednesday is “One Buck Wednesday;” admission is $1 per person with a donation to the Thurston County Food Bank. Thursday is Kids Day; admission is $2 for children 14 and younger. Aug. 2 is Military Appreciation Day; admission is $2 for active and retired military with ID.

    Also: No open-toe shoes or sandals are allowed on the rides.

    Information: 360-786-5453,

There’s so much to do at the Thurston County Fair — hop on a ride, play carnival games, see shows, eat all kinds of food (many of them fried). It can be hard to know where to start.

This A-to-Z guide to the fair, which opens Wednesday, is just a sampling of fair fun and fair deals.

A: Antiques appraisals. For the second year in a row, the fair offers its own variation on “Antiques Roadshow.” The event is at 4 p.m. Aug. 2 at Heritage Hall, and antiques owners must be present. To participate, sign up online ( and bring your antiques to the fair by Sunday. For more information, contact Ann Shipley at 360-791-6086 or

B: Baked goods. A favorite set of fair events is the open baking contests. There’s no need to register in advance, just show up at the fair with a chocolate cake (Thursday), six-10 cookies (Aug. 2), a berry pie (Aug. 3) or four-12 cupcakes (Aug. 4). Contestants get free admission to the fair.

C: Concerts. The fair offers free concerts daily with musical styles ranging from Balkan to Zydeco. Here’s the schedule:

Wednesday: Artesian Rumble Arkestra (jazz, Balkan brass and more), 5 p.m. Minilla Smiles (Brazilian jazz), 7 p.m. Thursday: Sour Owl (rock, blues, jazz, funk, Zydeco and pop), 7 p.m.

Aug. 2: Brown Edition (jazz-funk fusion), 7 p.m.

Aug. 3: Dennis Hastings Quartet (jazz and blues), 2:30 p.m. Scott and Dani (acoustic folk rock), 5 p.m. Aces Up (country rock), 7 p.m.

Aug. 4: Petra (Christian rock), 4 p.m.

D: Dogs. Canines will compete in events both serious (showmanship at 10 a.m. Friday at the Chitty Barn) and fun (a costume contest at 4 p.m. Aug. 4 at the barn). And some shelter dogs will get makeovers in the Groom Squad Competition (1 p.m. Sunday at the Chitty Barn).

E: Exhibits. Besides all of the animals, the fair offers exhibits of everything from fine art to hooked rugs to honey to models made of Legos or K’nex building blocks.

F: Fashion. Fair fashion goes beyond T-shirts and sneakers with the 4-H Fashion Revue, happening at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Benoschek Building and at 10 a.m. Aug. 3 on the Food Court Stage.

G: Goat games. Forget reindeer games. Check out goats at play (and goats in costume) at 1 p.m. Aug. 3 in the West Arena.

H: Herding. Dogs will show their skills Sunday at the Hicks Lake Barn, where Fido’s Farm of Olympia will offer demonstrations of herding and agility. “The dogs will be herding ducks,” fair operations coordinator Theresa Reid said. “I’m really interested to see how that works.”

I: Irish dance. Celtic dance and music are perennial favorites in South Sound — and at the fair. This year features Slieveloughane Irish Dance at 1 and 4 p.m. Wednesday on the main stage and the Comerford School of Irish Dance at 2 and 4 p.m. Thursday on the main stage.

J: “Jeopardy.” The fair offers Cat Jeopardy (6 p.m. Thurdsay at the Petersen Barn). We’d like to imagine the cats playing the TV game show; in fact, it’s an opportunity for cat exhibitors to show their knowledge.

K: Kids Zone. A new children’s play area near the parking lot entrance to the grounds targets little ones 8 and younger and their parents with a little red schoolhouse, sandbox and an ABC Garden with a plant for each letter of the alphabet.

L: Ladybugs. No, there’s no ladybug rodeo or costume contest. This year’s fair theme is “Laughter and Ladybugs,” and the fair’s mascot, Lilly the Ladybug, will be roaming the grounds. “We have invited any of her friends who want to fly in,” said Reid. There also is a scavenger hunt for ladybug stepping stones. Pick up a game sheet at the information booth.

M: Mustangs. Proud owners of the classic Ford muscle cars will show off their prized autos from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Aug. 3.

N: Natty dressers. Animals from cats to llamas will be dressed to the nines for costume competitions. (Cats compete at 6 p.m. Aug. 2 in the Petersen Barn, llamas at 2 p.m. Aug. 3 in the East Arena). There’s even a Prettiest Cow Contest (1 p.m. Aug. 4 in the East Arena).

O: Old-fashioned. Sure, the fair adds a little something new every year, but the standbys — farm animals, quilts, canned goods — haven’t changed in decades, even as the world all around the fairgrounds has.

P: Parking deal. Fair parking is $5. But free parking is readily available at Woodland Elementary School, 4630 Carpenter Road SE, or the North Thurston Bus Barn, 6620 Carpenter Road SE. Free shuttles will transport fairgoers all day.

Q: Quilt blocks. Sewers designed quilt blocks using a prescribed set of fabrics. The winning blocks will be combined to create a quilt to be raffled off during the 2014 fair. Check out the entries at Heritage Hall.

R: Rides. Of course, there are all the carnival rides, but there also are a few more unusual opportunities, including free mechanical bull riding for kids, who can dress up in chaps, vests and cowboy hats. The bull riding happens several times a day near the main stage. New this year is the opportunity to ride a camel for $5. The camels (along with kangaroos to visit) will be in front of Heritage Hall.

S: Soldiers welcome. On Military Appreciation Day, active-duty and retired soldiers can get into the fair for $2. And the fair will have exhibits from all branches of the military.

T: Tractor pull. Kids can participate in a pedal tractor pull with a modified John Deere pedal tractor. The tractor pull happens several times a day near the Carpenter gate.

U: Unlimited rides. Wristbands entitling fairgoers to unlimited rides cost $19 if purchased by Tuesday, $24 thereafter.

V: Volunteers needed. The fair and the Thurston County Solid Waste Division need people to staff recycling and waste stations, and it’s not too late to sign up. Volunteers work a three-hour shift, and in exchange, they get two free tickets and free parking on the day of the shift. Go to and click on “Volunteers,” or contact Brain Stafki at 360-867-2284 or

W: Whale. A life-size replica of a gray whale, created for the Procession of the Species by artist Carrie Ziegler and students from Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater, will be on display. The whale is made of all recycled materials, including thousands of braided plastic bags that form its skin and plastic forks and cups that create the skeleton.

X: (E)xtra good deal. The fair opens with One Buck Wednesday. Admission is $1 with a donation to the Thurston County Food Bank. Rides are $1 each, and each food vendor will have an item for $1.

Y: Yummy. Fair food, of course. Corn dogs. Onion rings. Scones. Is your mouth watering yet?

Z: Zinfandel … or some varieties of wine. New this year are tastings of cider (3-9 p.m. Thursday), beer (3-9 p.m. Aug. 2) and wine (3-9 p.m. Aug. 3) as part of the fair’s new Savor South Sound project, highlighting local agriculture. Savor South Sound is in the Heritage Hall Annex. Tickets are $20 in advance at or $22 at the gate and include fair admission, five tastes and a glass.

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