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Fair weather for Spokane Interstate Fair: Director expects fall showcase to be mostly back to normal

UPDATED: Tue., June 22, 2021

Ashton, a young contestant, holds on to a sheep during mutton bustin’ Sept. 15, 2019, at the Spokane County Interstate Fair & Expo Center.  (Libby Kamrowski/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Ashton, a young contestant, holds on to a sheep during mutton bustin’ Sept. 15, 2019, at the Spokane County Interstate Fair & Expo Center. (Libby Kamrowski/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

After more than a year of uncertainty, it appears the Spokane County Interstate Fair will be mostly back to normal this year.

Erin Gurtel, director of the fair and expo center, told the county commissioners Tuesday that, barring any changes from the governor’s office, the fair should take place without significant COVID-19 restrictions.

As recently as May, it appeared the fair might be capped at 9,000 attendees per day due to Washington’s COVID-19 guidelines. Those capacity restrictions could have limited revenues on the weekend, when fair attendance routinely tops 40,000 visitors.

Even though pandemic guidelines might not be a hindrance, Gurtel said there are still a few ways the fair could be different.

For one, Gurtel said she has had to cut $200,000 from the fair’s entertainment budget. The fair will have two concert nights instead of three, and the two remaining concerts will be “more conservative,” Gurtel said.

Grandstand and event tickets will be on sale starting in July.

Gurtel said the fair is considering other changes. It’s possible fair parking costs could increase from $5 to $10 on weekends.

The fair is also looking into an arrangement that would allow fair attendees to park at Spokane Community College and take a $2 Spokane Transit Authority shuttle to the fairgrounds.

Staffing, not COVID-19, is the main issue now, Gurtel said. She said the fair could open an hour later on weekdays – at 11 a.m. instead of 10 a.m. – because of a staffing shortage.

Nearly all fair workers are temporary, only working for 10 days in September. Gurtel said there are signs that hiring temporary workers for this year’s Sept. 10-19 window will be difficult.

Normally, the fair hires 54 janitorial workers, Gurtel told the county commissioners. So far, there have been four applicants for those 54 positions.

The fair is actively seeking applicants and will hold a job fair July 28.

Colin Tiernan can be reached at (509) 459-5039 or at colint@spokesman.com

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