Bob Field stretched a tape measure along the stem of a massive sunflower that rested on a table, from the root clump to the bright yellow disc on the other end.
“One hundred forty seven,” Field said, doing a quick calculation in his head. “So, 12 feet 3 inches.”
Field, a retired air traffic controller, is one of the helping hands at this year’s Spokane County Interstate Fair, which starts Friday. On Wednesday afternoon, he was prepping the sunflowers and other impressive gardening feats to be judged in contests.
The lead-up to the fair can be hectic, Field said, but he looks forward to interacting with the crowds come Friday.
“That’s the fun part,” he said. “Then you have 10 days of just talking to people.”
Erin Gurtel, the marketing and sales manager for the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center, said the fair typically attracts more than 200,000 people.
On Wednesday, crews were busy setting up carnival rides and pop-up tents. Gurtel said the fair will feature about 220 commercial vendors, more than 40 food vendors and more than 2,000 contest animals.
The list of quirky, family-friendly activities includes a Lego build-off, a poultry costume contest, pig racing, mutton bustin’ and a hypnotist performance.
“We try to pack a lot of attractions in that people can see for the price of an admission ticket,” Gurtel said.
One unusual attraction this year: sea lions.
A touring group from California that offers educational sea lion shows will be performing all 10 days of the fair, Gurtel said. The trained animals and their handlers will do tricks in a swimming pool.
The rodeo will begin Friday and continue on Saturday. A monster truck rally on Sunday has been canceled, but truck and tractor pulls are still planned for Sept. 15, and a demolition derby is slated for Sept. 16 and Sept. 17.
Additionally, two musical acts and a comedian have been tapped to play the Grandstand stage.
Country singer Gary Allan will perform Sept. 12, Miami pop-rockers Fifth Harmony will play Sept. 13 and comedian Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias will take the stage on Sept. 14. Each performance will begin at 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased on TicketsWest.com and include fair admission.
Admission-only tickets cost $7 for people ages 14 to 64 and $5 for seniors 65 and older, kids 13 and younger, and members of the military. More information can be found on the county’s website.
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