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Cool weather no hindrance to interstate fair patrons

Bob Field, 65, pumpkin judge at the Spokane Interstate Fair, donned a green wig on opening day. He says it “adds to the enjoyment of the fair.”
Bob Field, 65, pumpkin judge at the Spokane Interstate Fair, donned a green wig on opening day. He says it “adds to the enjoyment of the fair.”

Ten-day event opens in Spokane Valley

Director Rich Hartzell was “a little bit worried” that Friday’s opening of the Spokane County Interstate Fair was too good to be true, but the day’s worst wrinkles were on Jim Tourtillotte’s floppy ears and plastic elephant nose.

“You couldn’t pay somebody enough to do this stuff,” the Spokane Valley resident said as he attracted customers for the Moonshriners charity fundraising elephant ear stand.

As soon as she entered the fairgrounds, Spokane resident Kathy Dale headed straight for the Shriners’ stand – as she does every year.

“These guys want real food,” Dale said of her husband, Scott, and 15-year-old son Tylor. “I’ve got to have an elephant ear.”

It wouldn’t be a fair without one, Tourtillotte said.

Fairgoers needn’t worry about elephant ear quality.

“I will definitely be out there sampling for the good of the public,” Hartzell said. “Those and the funnel cakes.”

Cool and partly cloudy weather didn’t seem to deter attendance. Although ticket sales counts weren’t yet available, Hartzell said he was expecting a good crowd for Friday’s rodeo.

He said shortening the rodeo from three to two nights increased the number of cowboys by eliminating a conflict with a rodeo Sunday in Puyallup, Wash.

Robert Cole, the “Sunglass King” from Missoula, said sales of his signature product were “intermittent, just like the skies.”

“The sun will come out and people will shop,” he said. “As soon as it goes behind the cloud, they’re gone.”

Fortunately, he has other merchandise.

“Rodeo weekends, I always sell a lot of hats and blankets for the stands,” Cole said.

Cory Ovnicek, 7, figures he would have gotten “about one or two points” in the rodeo if the mechanical bull he rode had been real. The diminutive Spokane cowboy waved one arm in the air, stylishly maintaining his balance until he wound up clinging to one side of the bull with both hands.

Baylee Dykeman, also of Spokane, showed her style in a harness attached to two elastic cords. Bouncing to heights that ordinarily would require an elevator was not at all scary, according to the almost-7-year-old.

“I’m going to do the Caterpillar next, which I love,” she said. “It’s a roller coaster except it looks like a caterpillar.”

Spokane residents Barbara Remington and Helen Lancaster toured the Home Arts building while waiting for the rodeo to start. They were stopped cold by Chattaroy resident Barbara Lambrecht’s blue-ribbon, black-background appliquéd quilt.

“It’s gorgeous,” Remington said.

“Breathtaking,” said Lancaster.

Judges gave Lambrecht’s quilt a “special award” on top of the blue ribbon, which Home Arts superintendent Louise Wells said is like turning an “A” grade into an “A-plus.”

Competition isn’t limited to the usual fair events, including racing pigs that Hartzell said are “back by popular demand.” He said there also was a tight race in ticket sales between country singer Clint Black, who performs Monday, and the rock band Hinder, which will play Friday.

“As of last night, Hinder was ahead of Clint Black by two tickets,” Hartzell said.