Arts & Culture

Fair mixes traditional fun, quirky contests

Competing at the fair isn't just for people with impressive livestock, extra-large vegetables or the ability to bake extraordinary pies.

It also is for people who have weird stuff lying around their houses.

That's the rationale behind the Southwest Washington Fair's Ugly Lamp Contest and Crazy Cookie Jar Contest.

"We're trying to get more people to be active participants in the fair," said Gale Sobolesky, manager of the Southwest Washington Fair, which begins Tuesday. "A lot of people think it's just for youth or for people with animals, and we're trying to show that the fair has a lot of areas you can enter in."

Indeed. Take the Diaper Derby, for babies 14 months old and younger. The event, which begins at noon Aug. 16, is a race on hands on knees. (Babies who dare to walk are returned to the starting line.)

"It's a real favorite," Sobolesky said. "We get people coming year after year after year. People bring their younger kids, or they've been in it and then they bring their kids."

The lamp contest began last year, and the cookie jar contest is new this year. Both aim to be easy to enter and thus accessible to fair newbies.

Sobolesky also mentioned another atypical contest for table settings, such as for a party or a holiday.

For those who'd rather leave participation to the babies and farmers, there still is plenty to do at the fair. The interesting and diverse concert lineup this year includes:

n REO Speedwagon (Aug. 16). The 1980s arena rockers are responsible for hits such as"Take It on the Run," "Can't Fight This Feeling" and "Keep on Loving You."

n Doug Kershaw (Aug. 17), a Cajun country boy who is the son of an alligator hunter. He grew up speaking Cajun French and didn't learn English until he was 8 years old. Kershaw's best-known song, "Louisiana Man," was the first song broadcast back to Earth by the astronauts of Apollo 12.

n Johnny Rivers (Aug. 18), best-known for "Secret Agent Man" and "Baby I Need Your Lovin'." Rivers' earnest covers of R&B tunes and his later original songs together sold more than 30 million copies.

And then there are always the carnival rides. This year's big attraction is the Supershot Power Drop, which operates on the principle "what goes up must come down."

"It's similar to one at the Puyallup Fair," Sobolesky said. "It goes up, stays up a few seconds and then drops really fast."

There's a lot of variety in the space between kitschy cookie jars and kitschy '80s music.

"We feel like we've got a really broad spectrum of entertainment to touch everybody's tastes," she said.

Southwest Washington Fair

What: The 98th annual fair includes traditional and funky contest, as well as carnival rides, food, concerts and more.

When: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Aug. 16; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Aug. 17 and 18; and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 19.

Where: Southwest Washington Fairgrounds, 2555 National Ave. N., Chehalis

Tickets: $7 general admission, $5 for ages 60 and older and members of the military, $4 for ages 6-12, and free for ages 5 and younger. On Tuesday, children get in for $2. On Wednesday, those 65 and older and members of the military are admitted for $2.50. And Aug. 19 is Family Day, when all ages can get in for half price.

More information: 360-736-6072 or

Fair events, concerts

Stan Boreson: 4 p.m. Wednesday on the South Stage, free

Cook's Hill Manor and Senior Day contests: 5 p.m. Wednesday on the North Stage, free

Homegrown Country II with Backfire Band, Chris Guenther & the HonkyTonk Drifters, and Jonathan Harris: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday on the Saloon Stage, free

REO Speedwagon: 8:30 p.m. Aug. 16 in the Grandstand. $29.50 and $39.50 at the fair office, Tires Inc. in Chehalis, and Fuller's in Centralia. Tickets purchased by Monday also will include fair admission.

Doug Kershaw: 5 and 8 p.m. Aug. 17 on the Saloon Stage. Free or $17 for Golden Circle seats. Purchase tickets at the f air office or call 360-740-1495.

Johnny Rivers: 8 p.m. Aug. 18 on the Saloon Stage. Free or $17 for Golden Circle seats. Purchase tickets at the fair office or call 360-740-1495.

Every Single One with Mark Harris, Geoff Moore and Jamie Jamgochian: 4 p.m. Aug. 19 on the Saloon Stage, free

The Coats: 3 and 6 p.m. Aug. 19 on the South Stage, free