Palouse Empire Fair is ‘back in the saddle’

Community members excited for the fair’s return Sept. 9 after last year’s cancelation because of COVID-19



The fair begins Sept. 9 and ends Sept. 12. Tickets can be purchased at the fairgrounds in Colfax the day of.


The Palouse Empire Fair is set to start Sept. 9, after the pandemic led to its cancelation last year. For community members and vendors, the fair is expected to live up to this year’s “Back in the Saddle” theme. 

Each year, over 21,000 visitors flood into Colfax for carnival rides, 4-H presentations and Future Farmers of America animal showings. In addition to the typical attractions, this year’s fair will also feature a concert and rodeo riders from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

The fair opens at 8 a.m. Sept. 9 and wraps up 4 p.m. Sept. 12.  

Admission prices are $5 for K-12 students, $8 for adults and $7 for seniors. Family passes and four-day passes are available, and visitors can purchase tickets at the entrance to the fairgrounds.

This year’s theme was inspired by last year’s cancelation, said Fair Manager Janel Goebel.  The fair’s organizers jokingly selected the title as a contingency plan, in case the fair was canceled again this year. 

Goebel said she and her colleagues realized they could use “Back in the Saddle … Again” for next year’s fair, if an outbreak of COVID-19 struck for the second time.  

“That’s kind of what happens when you’re a part of the Emergency Management department,” Goebel said. “We’re always planning out as far as we can.” 

Goebel said last year’s cancelation of the fair significantly impacted many community members and local organizations. Multiple nonprofit organizations use the fair as one of their sources of revenue. When the fair’s board members canceled the fair last year, local nonprofits were unable to fundraise for their organization.

Goebel said they started planning this year’s fair in April, and as the Washington State Department of Health released new COVID-19 guidelines, they adjusted accordingly. In light of Gov. Jay Inslee’s mask mandate, fairgoers need to wear masks in indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status.

The Palouse Empire Fair is kicking off the festivities with a special concert at 7 p.m. Sept. 8, where Chance McKinney, country artist and WSU graduate, will open for Neal McCoy. Tickets can be purchased on the fair’s website and doors open at 5 p.m.

Lola Baerlocher, president of the C.U. There 4-H Club, has been an exhibitor at the fair for seven years now, showing rabbits and goats. Lola said she was disheartened last year when she could not present her market goats and dairy goats, but she remained positive and looked ahead to this year’s exhibits.

“I’m really excited about it,” Lola said. “It’s not just an opportunity for me to exhibit; it’s also an opportunity to see what other people are exhibiting and to see some friends that I maybe only see once a year.”

Lola’s mother Dawn Baerlocher stressed the importance of the fair for young community members. Dawn currently serves as one of the leaders of the C.U. There 4-H Club. Dawn noted that while last year’s cancelation was tough for her club members, it did provide a real-world experience as they learned to adjust and move forward as small business owners. 

She said she is extremely grateful for the many community members who support 4H members both financially and through mentorships. 

“These programs are teaching life skills to these kids,” Dawn said. “We try to set it up so that they learn how to run or operate a small business. Truly, it’s no different than most agricultural endeavors, where you just got to roll with it sometimes.”