It’s the 93rd year for a fair in Kitsap County. And throughout the years, the fair has been a place for local residents to celebrate what makes Kitsap County great.
The Kitsap County Fair & Stampede is held annually for the purpose of educating, entertaining and creating a better quality of life for the residents of Kitsap County and surrounding counties, according to members of the fair board.
It consists of teaching youth historical lessons so they may better understand what has shaped Kitsap County to become what it is today and what it will become in the future, board members said.
It promotes agriculture so that consumers may better understand the source of their food and fiber. It also provides information to consumers so that they may make better choices of products and ideas in their own lives. Competitive exhibits are another one of the tools that it used to educate customers.
And there’s always a lot of entertainment, including this year’s headliner, Heart By Heart.
Heart By Heart will perform on Wednesday, Aug. 24 at the Thunderbird Arena directly after the Xtreme Bulls at about 9 p.m.
Other entertainment during the fair includes Jackson Michelson, on Thursday, Aug. 25 at after the PRCA Rodeo (9 p.m.) in the Thunderbird Arena
Austin Jenckes, as seen on The Voice, will sing Friday, Aug. 26 at 9 p.m. after the PRCA Rodeo in the Thunderbird Arena
The Kitsap Destruction Derby is set for the last day of the fair, Sunday, Aug. 28 from 1 to 4 p.m., also in the Thunderbird Arena.
Other fair favorites are Karen Quest – Cowgirl Tricks, a unique fun-filled Vaudeville-style Western Comedy Act complete with Trick Roping, Whip Cracking, Music and Lots of Surprises. She also performs on stilts as “Lucky Starr” – an 8-foot-tall cowgirl – as she engages audiences with her special brand of Western humor; and Kevin Wolfe Comedy Hypnosis, a fast paced and funny hypnosis show that will keep everyone laughing. With Wolfe’s special improvisational style, you never know what’s going to happen.
There’s a total of four entertainment stages including the Center Stage, the Pepsi Stage which features family entertainment, the Cowboy Corral, which includes the PRCA Rodeo and lots of country music, and the Random Acts stage, a place for “unplugged” entertainment. In all there will be more than 100 performances to choose from while attending the fair.
Many people come to the fair to see the livestock. This year the barns will be full and there’ll be cows, pigs, lambs, cats, dogs and rabbits to see. And the exotic bird barn will return again this year.
The Rodeo and Stampede is a highlight for many and will include rodeo events from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. On Wednesday, there will be Xtreme Bull riding. Rodeo events include bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, calf roping and barrel racing. The PRCA is the largest and oldest professional rodeo sanctioning body in the world. The recognized leader in Pro Rodeo, the PRCA sanctions more than 600 rodeos annually and showcases the world’s best cowboys in premier events.
And, of course, there’ll be hundreds of exhibits to look at including homemade pies and pickles, retail vendors selling everything from pots and pans to purses, and the food. What can you say about fair food, other than come hungry. Just don’t eat before you ride the carnival rides.
The first recorded Kitsap County Fair happened in 1923 in Port Orchard, some 15 miles from its present location. It was held in Port Orchard from 1923 to 1929. Then it moved to Roosevelt Field in Bremerton. It moved to its present location in 1958.
In 1929, exhibitors at the fair totaled 1,000; today there are more than 6,000, with annual attendance of 80,000.
In the late 1950s, the Chief Kitsap Stampede sold stock certificates for $1 and constructed the Thunderbird Arena. When completed it held 12,000 spectators. In the late 1970s, portions of the arena were condemned. The covered grandstands were later added. Today the arena holds 5,000 spectators and is used year-round for various events such as D-derby, Draft Horse Show, monster trucks and more. The complex has an annual overall attendance at its various events of more than 211,000.
Preparation for the fair begins right after the previous year’s fair is over, according to Jim Dunwiddie, director of the Kitsap County Parks and Recreation. And on the Saturday two weeks before the fair, more than 300 volunteers come out for “Super Saturday.”
“Volunteers put fresh paint on many of the buildings and clean up the fairgrounds,” he said. “These are the people who make sure we’re ready to open.”
He noted, too, that many of the members of the fair board work full time and take vacation the week of the fair so that they can be there to help.
“They’re really very dedicated folks,” he said.
Each year the fair board also looks over a list of suggested themes that have been submitted from fair supporters, he said.
“We’ve had lots of suggestions and we keep track of them,” he said. “The board sits down after the last fair and chooses the theme for the coming year.”
The theme chosen for this year is “Stars, Stripes and County Nights.”