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Rob Curley: New things at Spokane County Interstate Fair include inside look at The S-R

Comedian Jeff Foxworthy talks with Carolyn Lamberson, The Spokesman-Review’s senior editor for special projects, in 2018 at the Spokane County Interstate Fair. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Seeing things you haven’t seen before is one of the best things about going to a county fair.

All of those baby animals are super cute, if not a little smelly. The Ferris wheel’s twinkling lights are beautiful and always worth a look, if not a spin. Deep-fat frying things that were never meant to be fried is always worth a disbelieving giggle. The pig races are always a big crowd pleaser.

Your eyeglasses have never been as clean as when that fellow at that one booth you’re not sure you’ll ever find again cleaned them with that crazy pink liquid. And your diamonds have never sparkled like that before.

Then there was that crazy little gizmo that perfectly blends so many fruits and vegetables together like nothing ever seen before, and gosh darn it, it’s a fair special. Besides, if we actually never use it like they did, we’re still going to have the smoothest mashed potatoes on the block.

But, let’s be honest, we’ve seen all of those things before. Actually, every year. They’re like carnival comfort food. Or as comforting as a fried Snickers or seeing a crazy flag you can’t imagine someone buying, let alone flying, can be.

We see these things every fall at the Spokane County Interstate Fair. They’re old favorites for a reason.

Still, it’s the stuff we’ve never seen before that we like the best. Those are the things we tell our neighbors about and that we can’t wait to post on Facebook.

The problem isn’t that we don’t always know where to find them. The fairgrounds are pretty darn big. There’s a lot going on. And the person at the squirt-gun racing game says there’s a winner every time and it feels like our time.

Luckily, there’s a place at the fair that has the stuff you haven’t seen before. And there really is a winner every time.

At least if you’re someone who loves newspapers.

For the second year in a row, The Spokesman-Review’s popular Northwest Passages book club and community forum series is hosting a stage at the fair. Only this time, they gave us a really big stage that’s super easy to find. And cool things happen on that stage that most people don’t get to see.

If you know where that hypnotist performs most nights, that’s now our stage. If you still don’t know where that is, look between the main food court and the livestock barns. Follow your nose.

This year, the fair opened on the same day as “National Read A Book Day,” so the Northwest Passages stage featured Gonzaga women’s basketball coach Lisa Fortier, Eastern Washington University President Mary Cullinan and even Spokane Mayor David Condon all reading children’s books aloud. That’s not something you see everyday.

It quickly become clear that if Condon doesn’t want to stay in politics after he leaves the mayor’s office, he’s got a legit shot at narrating children books for, or possibly as a television anchor reading the nightly news – which might be a nice reversal for this town.

Friday also saw longtime Spokesman-Review photographer Jesse Tinsley explain the stories behind the stories for classic images that have run in this newspaper, as well as give tips for taking great photos at the fair. Again, you don’t see that every day.

That takes us to today.

We’re always asked how we pick the stories and photos for the front page of The Spokesman-Review. When groups ask, we try to schedule a time for them to visit our newsroom and sit in on the afternoon news meeting where all of our editors get together to do that very thing.

Any of our subscribers who’ve attended one of those news meetings agree that it’s nothing like they expected and they enjoy our newspaper even more after being a part of one. So, why not host one at the fair?

That happens this afternoon at 2 on the Northwest Passages stage. You can literally sit in our meeting in which we discuss all of the stories in the next day’s newspaper and what page each story might appear.

Our news meeting will be followed with a session about the nationally acclaimed design of our newspaper and the custom illustrations that appear in The Spokesman-Review with design editor Chris Soprych and superstar illustrator Molly Quinn.

After that, Soprych will literally design the front page of Tuesday’s newspaper on the large video boards on the stage. Watching the paper be designed in front of you is something you don’t get to see very often.

We’re not really supposed to talk about what is supposed to happen at 5 on the Northwest Passages stage. Let’s just say that if you have tickets to see one of the great bands performing at the grandstand that night, it might be worth sneaking over to our stage at around that time.

Still, you might need a hint. Just look at the photo of Jeff Foxworthy making a surprise appearance last year on our Northwest Passages stage to answer audience questions before his show at the fair. We’re not saying that’s going to happen. We are saying it doesn’t hurt to take a chance and be over at our stage around that time.

Just in case.

On Tuesday, we’ll have cooking demos, then we’ll be showing clips from some of the most memorable movies about journalism and explain the differences between real newspapers and Hollywood’s versions of the Fourth Estate.

Then there’s that 5 p.m. slot. You’re not going to want to miss it.

Wednesday will include a session with Spokesman-Review sports writers talking about Washington State football and Gonzaga basketball and all points in between. Then there will be all sort of surprise performances leading up to that famed 5 p.m. session that we’re not supposed to discuss.

When we did all of this at last year’s fair, many of our Northwest Passages book club members told us they wish they could come each day but couldn’t afford tickets every day. This year, we’ve secured 200 daily fair tickets for our book club members who have attended at least one other previous Northwest Passages event. To get those limited tickets, visit

All we ask is that if you take those tickets, that you really use them and you really attend our sessions.

We’ll publish a schedule each morning in our newspaper of what will be happening on our Northwest Passages stage, as acts and scheduled speakers sometimes need to have times changed.

Maybe afterwards, we all can go grab a corn dog together, because as cool as it is to see new things at the fair, that doesn’t mean we also shouldn’t enjoy those other things that are there each year.

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