Friday marked the 30th year in a row the Moran Fair has started the weekend with a horse show, dog obedience trial and children lining up for ice cream at the nearby Moran Grange hall.
Area residents and Moran Prairie visitors can walk through the three-square-block fairgrounds easily. The crowds, like the fair itself, are low-key and unhurried.
What’s not certain, say organizers, is whether they can keep the annual Moran Fair going for more than a few more years.
“This is a fun, family-oriented community fair,” said fair President Dee Oberst. What’s changed in the past 10 years, though, is the gradual disappearance of the old Moran community.
“Look around and you find a whole different type of area,” said longtime resident Lyman Hubenthal.
“Those houses over there, two blocks from the fair, they weren’t there two years ago,” said Hubenthal, a member of the Moran Grange. The grange owns the three acres near 57th and Palouse Highway used for the fair.
Hubenthal and Oberst both say the fair’s future is uncertain. Moran’s neighborhood has gradually changed from a rural outpost on the southeast edge of town into a buzzing suburb with families too busy for a quaint annual fair.
The Moran Grange, in business for more than 60 years, is itself facing rough times. County property taxes keep increasing as land values rise. Hubenthal said grange members have enough dues and money to pay for two more years of taxes, but no more.
If they disband, the free use of the open land now enjoyed by the Moran Fair Board would end as well. “If the grange goes away, we’d have to go too,” said Oberst.
As grange members grow old, the separate fair board has its own challenge - trying to find people committed to keeping the fair going, said Oberst.
“I guess the people who keep doing the fair just don’t want to see it stop,” she said. “But I have to say, we’re getting older and are running low on energy. This doesn’t get put together in a quick six weeks before the fair opens.”
The board is constantly looking for new blood to run committees, raise money, staff booths and take care of setting up and taking down booths and animal pens during the three-day fair.
“But people seem too busy these days. Even the people who sign up on our volunteer sheets, they say later that they’re not able to help out,” Oberst said.
The hope is to find new energy to take over the duties of the old guard - volunteers like longtime Moran Prairie resident Ardis Storm.
She’s been to nearly every one of the Moran fairs. They’re like Sunday church, a part of her life.
“This fair is the one place you can go where you’ll walk around, and you’ll see your old schoolmates and your neighbors. For us, it’s the way we stay in touch.”
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MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: MORAN FAIR The Moran Fair continues today, 8 a.m.-10 p.m., and Sunday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., at the Moran Grange, 57th and Palouse Highway.