There’s a Spam recipe contest, a pickle-making demonstration and an Elvis impersonator, but the most exotic sight at the Spokane Interstate Fair is supposed to be someone wandering around with a lighted cigarette.
This year, smokers are supposed to stay in designated areas.
The policy was adopted by the fair board last month after people had complained about secondhand fumes and the risk of running into burning cigarettes while weaving through crowds.
But judging by the number of people flicking ashes onto the asphalt in the supposedly smoke-free food court, the new rule isn’t being enforced.
Security guards are supposed to only “recommend smokers use one of the designated areas,” said Iris “Dolly” Hughes, fair business and operations manager.
Since there wasn’t a lot of public notice for such a big change, Hughes doesn’t want to push people too hard this soon.
“It’s sort of an awareness thing at the current time, rather than an absolute policy,” she said.
There are supposed to be “No Smoking” signs and Washington Smoke Free Society volunteers gently guiding puffers to smoking zones, Hughes said.
If there were any “No Smoking” signs on display Monday, they were hard to find amid the chaos of advertisements for funnel cakes, barbecued ribs, hot dogs and other fair fare. Only the smoking zones were clearly marked.
“I hope we’re in one,” said Mary Anne Polls, who took a drag while sitting in the shade of a bumper car ride. Cigarette butts from other fairgoers were scattered around her bench.
According to a map in the fair program, Polls and company indulged their habits illegally - 15 yards west of the nearest smoking area.
When Polls learned that, she sheepishly returned her butt to the pack. She said she supports the new rules.
“The fair’s so nice, you can make a few concessions to it,” she said. “Although I think there ought to be more smoking areas.”
Fair manager Hughes agrees. While there are only four smoking areas listed on the official map, Hughes added three more since the fair started and plans to add an eighth today.
In the food court Monday, faithful attendees Gene and Lillian Cook of Spokane said the fair seems cleaner this year because of the new policy.
“It was a real mess before,” Gene Cook said, referring to the butts he used to see littering the ground.
In the beer garden, where smoking is allowed, Vyonda Cunningham was lighting up and playing a scratch Lottery ticket.
“It doesn’t hurt you that much to come in here,” she said. “It’s not that much out of the way.”
Though it’s hard to say how many smokers like Cunningham are using the smoking areas, convincing evidence can be found in the sand-filled buckets that serve as ashtrays.
They are packed with butts.