With a combination of rain, smoke and a resurgent COVID-19 wave sweeping across Spokane, the 2021 Spokane County Interstate Fair still roared open on Friday.
Despite the circumstances, opening day brought a surge of nostalgia and happiness from an event that recalled those simpler times before 2020.
“People just seem happy,” said Joe Goetz, who went to the fair with his family for 15 consecutive years before the pandemic hit. “It’s really nice to have it back.”
The return of the American pastime brought back the rides, games and, of course, the delicious entrees and desserts we all know as fair food.
One food stand served a remarkable variety of food. including lasagna, pickles, bacon, Philly cheese steaks, pizza, cookie dough, Twinkies and ravioli.
The connecting theme of all of those different options? They were deep fried.
The area where fairgoers could see and pet animals included the ones you’d expect like goats, rabbits and pigs. But the more adventurous could also find kangaroos, armadillos and even venomous snakes (which were not open for petting).
And toward the back of the fairgrounds, some fairgoers watched a race between feisty four-legged competitors. The two racers, Luke Skyporker and Sloppy Joe, weren’t greyhounds or horses, but miniature pigs darting around a small track and hopping over hurdles.
It was an event put on by the All-Alaskan Racing Pigs, which appears at fairs across the West Coast to showcase athletic hogs.
“We thought the fair was going to be canceled,” said Robert Buhl, an employee who announced the race. “We’re glad we can be here and put on a show.”
Buhl’s surprise reflects the sentiment shared by many who thought the fair would have been canceled due to COVID cases filling up hospitals in the Spokane area.
The Interstate Fair implemented safety policies such as requiring masks indoors and hand sanitation stations to try to make the event safer for fairgoers.
But it appeared that more than three-fourths of fairgoers weren’t wearing masks outdoors, where they recommended by organizers. In the indoor area where stands were set up, well over half of the people inside were not wearing masks even though they were required.
Goetz, whose wife and two daughters were masked up, said he was disheartened by the lack of COVID-19 safety being practiced by most of those attending.
Gov. Jay Inslee’s announced mask requirement for large outdoor gatherings on Thursday means that masks will be required outdoors as well at the fair starting Monday.
But whether they were masked up or not, fairgoers got to enjoy the rodeo Friday night, which included bareback riding, barrel racing and bull riding.
The announcer for the rodeo kicked it off by thanking everyone for coming out after a tough 18 months, hard times that he said he wasn’t sure were coming to an end just yet.
The fair will be open until Sept. 19.
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