Thurston County Fair adds beer and wine tasting, plus music by local bands

Contributing writerAugust 2, 2013 

  • THURSTON COUNTY FAIR

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

    When: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday

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

    Tickets: At the gate, they’re $7 general admission, $6 for ages 60 and older, $5 for ages 6-14, free for children 5 and younger. Friday is Military Appreciation Day; admission is $2 for active and retired military with identification.

    Shuttle: Parking at the fair is $5, but you can park free at Woodland Elementary School, 4630 Carpenter Road SE or the North Thurston Bus Barn, 6620 Carpenter Road SE, and ride a free shuttle to the fair.

    More information: 360-786-5453 or co.thurston.wa.us/fair

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

    CONCERTS

    Friday: Brown Edition (jazz-funk fusion) at 7 p.m.

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

    Sunday: Petra (Christian rock) at 4 p.m.

    TASTINGS

    What: The fair this year offers beer and wine tasting, highlighting local agriculture and business and adding a new element to the fair’s traditional offerings. For ages 21 and older only.

    When: Beer tasting 3-9 p.m. Friday; wine tasting 3-9 p.m. Saturday

    Where: Heritage Hall Annex

    Tickets: $20 in advance at brownpapertickets.com or $22 at the gate. Tickets include fair admission, five tastes and a glass.

This weekend, you can sip locally made beer and wine, hear talented local musicians and enjoy the summer weather.

But not at a bar, club or festival. This is at the Thurston County Fair.

The Live & Local music series and the Savor South Sound beverage tastings are both part of an effort to increase the sustainability of the fair by drawing a new crowd – a crowd that might not have children or connections to farming or 4H.

“A lot of the people I hang out with say, ‘We don’t go to the fair because there’s nothing at the fair for us,’ ” said Danielle Westbrook, who plays with the Latin jazz combo Bevy and is assistant to Thurston County Commissioner Karen Valenzuela. “One of the things that people wanted to see is some of the local music in town. There are tons of fantastic musicians right here in the greater Thurston County area.”

Westbrook organized the new Live & Local series, which has brought local flavor to the fair’s stages. Christian rock band Petra, playing Sunday and sponsored by KACS 90.5 FM, is the only non-local show. “We have a great lineup this year,” she said, noting that Friday’s band, The Brown Edition, just won an Independent Music Award.

“If people want to buy a ticket to Savor South Sound, they can buy a ticket for 20 bucks, get into the fair, do the beer tasting and see a hot show all for one price,” Westbrook said.

“We want to draw in new crowds of people who maybe wouldn’t normally otherwise go to the fair, and we also want to bring something new to the people who go every year,” said Becca Pilcher, assistant to Commissioner Sandra Romero.

Pilcher organized Friday’s beer tasting and Saturday’s wine tasting, along with the cider tasting that kicked things off on Thursday.

“The fair has been very rooted in tradition, which is a great thing, but at the same time, we’ve seen it really struggling the last few years,” she said. “The fair hasn’t been sustainable, and the goal is to make it so that it pays for itself.”

The county commissioners held meetings as part of the process of re-imagining the fair, Pilcher said, and beer and wine tastings were suggested several times.

The fair did have a beer garden “once many, many years ago,” said fair operations coordinator Theresa Reid, but the tastings are something new for the county fair, which is better known as a place for baking contests, quilt displays and livestock auctions.

However, the tastings fit with the fair’s mission, said Lucas Patzek, director of Thurston County Extension.

“It’s a local food economy awareness-building thing,” he said. “All of the wineries and breweries and cideries that we’re highlighting are small family businesses, and a lot of them are trying to source locally.”

“This is about promoting agriculture, which is in line with the history of the fair,” Pilcher said. “It’s not a beer garden.”

The tastings are part of Savor South Sound, a new fair attraction highlighting the local and regional agricultural bounty. Patzek organized the area, which also will host demonstrations and displays centering around fruit (10 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday), grains (10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday) and seafood (10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday).

To go along with the new attractions, the fairground has gotten a facelift, Pilcher said.

“Three buildings were just reroofed by volunteers,” she said. “Buildings have been repainted. There has been grounds keeping work that hasn’t been done in years past.”

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