Jessie McLaughlin has been coordinator of the Spokane County Interstate Fair since 2001. She, along with 16 county workers, 300 contracted workers and about 500 volunteers, will keep things lively during the run of this year’s fair.
Q.What’s harder, getting the fair ready or running it once it opens?
A.Absolutely, getting ready. We’ve joked that we’d love it to be a 17-day fair. Once it’s here, we just ride it out.
Q.And then how many hours do you work during the fair?
A.A lot. … I often start at 6 a.m. some days, and we don’t leave here until 11 p.m.
Q.What’s been done to freshen up the fair to draw people who might otherwise not come?
A.The biggest thing is to find and home in on entertainment that’s hot. We’ve found that in years we didn’t have good entertainment, attendance was down.
Q.This year’s big acts are …?
A.The Beach Boys (Wednesday), Glen Campbell (Tuesday) and country star Rodney Atkins (tonight).
Q.What have you done to help people watching their budgets this year?
A.We did a better job of promoting our preseason tickets. They’re roughly half-price of a regular ticket. We got the word out and we were barraged this week with orders. It’s a true sign that people are looking for discounted tickets.
Q.Did you make an extra effort to promote family fun or kids activities this year?
A.We moved the Super Science Company from the Ag Building this year to the Home Arts Building, Bay Three (crafts exhibits). They have hands-on exhibits, puzzles, brainteasers and kiosks for kids to do things. They’ve been kind of overlooked where they were in the past.
In the same area we’ve added a brand new “rock digging” exhibit. Kids have the opportunity to dig in sand and sift through the sand to find gems they can take away.
Q.How many exhibits will there be this year?
A.I can’t tell you yet. Last year we had 13,500 “competitive” exhibits, or presenters that had some kind of judging. It covers everything from canning to cows. We’ll have about 240 commercial vendors and food sellers.
Q.Who’s the first food vendor you visit once the fair opens?
A.Leonardo’s. They make a piroshky. It has cream cheese and salmon inside and my name all over it.
Q.What are the three big crowd-pleasers going to be this year?
A.The rodeo, which takes place the first weekend. Then the Mutton Bustin’ event, which takes place three or four times a day, in the field north of the grandstand. (Kids get to ride a sheep, cowboy-style, under supervision.)
And the third would be the demolition derby, with a show at 7 p.m. on Saturday and 4 p.m. on Sunday. The grandstand really fills up for that. I don’t know why, but people like to watch things crash.