Indeed, prior to the state Department of Agriculture, university extension programs and local farm bureaus, the Central Washington State Fair and others like it provided a vital place for local farmers to display their produce and livestock, to network and get caught up on the latest agricultural developments. “You wanted your tomatoes to win because you were a commercial tomato grower.” Much has changed more than a century later.
“You wanted your bull to be the champion bull (because) that bull’s offspring became more valuable,” said Stephen Chambers, executive director of the Western Fairs Association, which serves 150 fairs and 400 fair-related businesses across the Western U. Farmers have other means to sell their product — and in many cases, it would be unrealistic for larger growers and producers to participate in a fair.
While fair visitors of all ages can still milk that cow, they also can tinker with 3-D printers and robotics at the STEM exhibit.
And contests that recognize excellence in produce and raising livestock are still around.Norman, who will attend this year’s event to help run the department’s booth, said a sizable antique farm equipment display and Future Farmers of America exhibits are among the agricultural displays she has enjoyed in past fairs.“That is quite impressive,” said Mike Louisell, spokesman for the state Department of Agriculture, in an email to the Yakima Herald-Republic.“WSDA was created by the Legislature in 1913, so your fair beats us.And this year’s concert lineup features a wide array of musical genres, including country, rock and R&B.
Alongside the apple exhibits is one for reptiles (so popular that State Fair Park officials are arranging tours for school groups) and another focusing on science, technology, engineering and math, also known as STEM.
The Central Washington State Fair continues to gain recognition from its peers and others in the fair association for innovative outreach efforts, such as an ongoing partnership with officials from Hadong City, South Korea.
“We think of the modern agricultural fair as a uniquely North American thing, but one of the things we learned is there are similar events in other countries; South Korea is one of them,” Chambers said.
Stewart remembers a few years ago, he was walking around the fairgrounds when he saw a teenage girl bring her horse back to the barn.
She had received first place in her age group for her horse.
And, with a sizable portion of Yakima Valley residents not involved in agriculture, fair officials have broadened the scope of the fair over the years to include a wide range of activities, exhibits and contests.