Thurston County Fairgrounds counting on volunteers

Staff writerJune 8, 2014 

Although best known for hosting the county fair every summer, the Thurston County Fairgrounds is focusing on year-round activities.

However, some supporters fear the fair’s days could be numbered.

With an annual budget of about $134,000, fair organizers must rely on volunteers and donated labor just to get by, said Kathie McWaid, vice president of the Thurston County Fair Foundation.

McWaid said a small core of volunteers often shoulders most of the work. This weekend, however, about a dozen volunteers from the National Guard’s 176th Engineer Company helped with a list of tasks such as repairing the gazebo, painting buildings and weeding the gardens.

“We’ve got to start getting the community involved, or the fair won’t be around,” McWaid said. “We need help.”

This summer’s main event, the Thurston County Fair, is slated for July 30 through Aug. 3 at the fairgrounds off Carpenter Road in Lacey. At least 30,000 people cycle through the gates during that annual five-day stretch, said Josh Cummings, the county’s fair coordinator.

Cummings took the job three months ago and set a goal of boosting attendance, he said.

This year, the fair will host a “live and local” outdoor concert series along with a Savor the South Sound tasting event with local beer, wine and ciders, he said.

Facilities at the fairgrounds are rented throughout the year for weddings, birthday parties, conferences and more. The expo center can accommodate 288 people.

“The fair is alive,” Cummings said, noting the site’s potential. “We’re gonna grow this thing.”

The first Thurston County Fair was in 1871 and has long been an all-ages educational forum for residents to exhibit livestock and their art.

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869

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