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Fair dangles a few new lures

Thu., Sept. 4, 2008, midnight

Pink-clad cowboys, racing ducks and lumberjacks climbing poles among attractions

Many people already have their reasons for going to the fair: the rodeo, the concerts, the historic trains or a chance to continue blue-ribbon dominance.

Spokane County Interstate Fair coordinator Jessica McLaughlin has heard from people who say they go because it’s the best place to price-compare hot tubs.

But for those looking for something new – or just need something to fill the time between jumbo corn dogs and funnel cake – here are a few of this year’s attractions at the Spokane County fair, which starts Friday and runs through Sept. 14.

Cowboys in pink

Mauve, primrose, fuchsia – not colors usually associated with the rough and sweaty business of riding bulls and tackling steer into the dirt.

But expect to see pink Friday on the opening night of the PRCA Rodeo: It’s Wrangler’s “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” night, a chance for rodeo fans to show solidarity in the fight against breast cancer.

At the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas – where the initiative started in 2005 – announcers, cowboys and rodeo clowns show up in pink on the designated night. “During Grand Entry literally all of them are in pink,” McLaughlin said.

In Spokane, a prize will be awarded for the most outrageously pink get-up.

A dollar from each $5 ticket will go to the Susan B. Komen Foundation to support breast cancer research, McLaughlin said.

Racing mallards

With a name like Robert Duck, it might have been inevitable. It’s been a decade now since Duck left his Albuquerque jewelry business to take the annual Great American Duck Race in Deming, N.M., on the road. He and his wife, Kathy, have been traveling around the country since.

The show will hit the Spokane fair for the first time, with 33 mallards taking turns streaking across a water track; audience members hold the ducks at the starting line. Each show includes four heats and a final. The duck-holder lucky enough to get the swiftest duck gets a prize, while everyone who watches will learn Duck’s interesting facts about mallards.

Duck said it’s hard to tell which ducks are quicker overall because a lot of it depends on the holder. “If you knew, it wouldn’t be as much fun,” he said.

Duck races start at 11:30 a.m., 1:30, 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. daily.

Kids on sheep

Imagine bareback bull riding, only with little kids and sheep. That’s mutton bustin’: It was a crowd-pleaser when it made its debut last summer, McLaughlin said, and it’s back for another year of testing tykes’ sheep-riding skills to the amusement of parents and spectators. Children younger than 6 and less than 60 pounds can try their best to hang on as long as possible.

It’s not all kiddie pride and early Christmas card photo-ops: The overall winner will get a pint-size ATV. Competitions are held daily just north of the grandstand. For a fee parents can sign up their kids an hour or two before each round at 1, 2:30, 4 and 7 p.m. daily.

Loggers at new heights

The stripped wooden poles rise 70 feet into the air, embedded 10 feet into the ground. Pole climbing, a new part of the International Lumberjack show, is not for the acrophobic.

But the poles are only part of the show as the ax-throwing, log-rolling, hand-sawing performers led by brothers Earl and Alvie Marcellus show what real lumberjacks can do. “Most of what they’re doing simulates what the logging industry was doing many years ago,” fair director Rich Hartzell said.

They perform every day at noon, 3 and 6:30 p.m. on the south lawn near the historic trains and tractors.

A venomous new ride

Joining the colorful sprawl of carnival rides this year is the Viper, a lime green, snake-themed whirler. Riders are strapped into free-spinning, two-person pods dangling from two rotating arms. Of course, there’s no shame in being the one who sits this one out. You know, to take pictures.

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