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Spokane County Fair home arts guru approaching 50 years on the job

UPDATED: Sat., Sept. 9, 2017, 10:07 p.m.

Louise Wells, the superintendent of Home Arts at the Spokane County Interstate Fair, looks over the display of food products Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. Wells has been in charge of the department for 47 years. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Louise Wells, the superintendent of Home Arts at the Spokane County Interstate Fair, looks over the display of food products Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. Wells has been in charge of the department for 47 years. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

If you have any questions about the crocheted, knitted and sewn items on display at the Spokane County Interstate Fair, ask Louise Wells.

Wells, 82, has been the superintendent of the Home Arts displays at the fair for 47 years. She said she had to be convinced to take the job, but now doesn’t want to give it up.

“It’s fun,” she said. “The people you meet, the things you see.”

She’s in charge of hiring the clerks that patrol the tables to answer questions and keep an eye on things. She also oversees the people who do daily demonstrations on how to create hand crafted items, decorates her area in keeping with the fair’s theme and organizes the display of ribbon-winning items.

She’s always looking for new ideas, Wells said.

“You really can’t plan because you don’t know what’s going to come in,” she said.

There’s a frenzy of activity before the fair even begins as items are brought in, judged and put on display. The long days continue throughout the fair’s two-week run.

“You spend all year thinking about this,” she said. “I guess it just gets in your blood.”

Joyce Statler has been roaming the displays as an employee for 19 years. She calls Wells a sweetheart who can be tough when she needs to be.

“She knows what needs to be done and gets us to do it,” she laughed. “It’s fun. It’s a crazy intense two weeks at the fair and then I get 50 weeks to rest up for next year.”

Wells is a good source of information, Statler said.

“She’s creative,” she said. “She knows how to do all the stuff.”

The fair is in Wells’ blood in more ways than one. She first got involved in the fair when her aunt, who held the same position she now does, recruited her to come in and help. Wells had been in 4H as a kid and was a 4H leader when her five children were young. She’d had a lifetime of sewing, quilting and crafting.

At the age of 80, her aunt retired and her aunt’s boss immediately began asking her to take over the position. But she was a busy stay-at-home mom with three young kids and a big garden to take care of.

“That’s how I got roped into this,” she said. “It took some convincing.”

But now she’s glad she was convinced. She comes back every year and works part of the time at an old battered desk. This week she was glad she was inside – out of the smoke and the heat.

“I probably wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t in the air conditioning,” she said.

Wells isn’t willing to speculate on how much longer she’ll keep coming back.

“You just go day by day anymore,” she said.


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