What’s new this year at the Thurston County Fair?
Nothing really big — but it’s those old favorites that really draw people to the old-fashioned five-day fair, kicking off Wednesday.
Favorites like scones, rides and, of course, the animals.
“According to our surveys, one of the big reasons people come to the fair is to see the animals, and this year will be no different,” said fair manager Rick Storvick. “The barns will be full of animals.”
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This year’s mascot is the alpaca. (Mascots are a chosen by a vote of children at the previous year’s fair.) “Alpacas of America is bringing some alpacas to have on display, and they’ll be at the Willuweit Pavilion,” he said.
But perhaps no animals are more of a draw at fair time than the humble pigs.
“Often during fair week, we’ll have someone who brings a pig that has a new litter or even gives birth to a litter,” Storvick said. “That’s probably one of the most popular things.
“My understanding is that pigs are pretty predictable,” he added. “There are usually one or two kids who work on trying to make sure they have piglets at the fair.”
Not all animals at the fair are there because they’re cute, though.
“One of the more unusual animal events we have is the market animal sale,” Storvick. “When they sell the animals, the money goes to the exhibitor, so 97 percent of all the funds raised go back to the kids.”
During the 19 years the sales have been going on, more than $1 million has been raised.
“This year, there are 132 animals that will be sold at auction,” Storvick said. “There will be steers, sheep, pigs and goats.”
Last year, one goat went for $11 per pound.
But while buying an animal is pricey, going to the fair need not be.
The opening day is One-Buck Wednesday, when anyone bringing a donation for the Thurston County Food Bank will get in for just $1.
If that’s not inexpensive enough, Storvick said Les Schwab stores have $1 off admission tokens. So it’s possible to come to the fair free — riding the shuttle from the free off-site parking lots.
“Rides and attractions may cost additional, and food is additional,” Storvick said, “but all of the entertainment and exhibits are free.
“You could literally come to the fair and bring your sack lunch and have a free day seeing all kinds of stuff.”