Final decision about county fair not made yet

Fair board to present plan within Phase 3 guidelines on June 15



The sun sets behind carnival rides at the Palouse Empire Fair in 2019.

JENNA GEELAN, Evergreen reporter and columnist

The fate of the Palouse Empire Fair — just five miles outside Colfax — will be decided on June 15. Its original dates are set for September 10-13.

Janel Goebel, Whitman County fair manager, said businesses benefit from the fair every year as the event accepts vendors from all cities, counties and states. It is too early to confirm what vendors will be in attendance this year.

Whitman County Commissioner Dean Kinzer said fair employees are questioning which vendors will participate with the risk of COVID-19 still lingering.

Kinzer said if the fair were to continue, it will comply with Phase 3 of Washington’s reopening plan, which consists of gatherings no larger than 50 people. The state is not projected to move to Phase 4 until the beginning of 2021, he said.

Commissioners recommended the county cancel the fair when the coronavirus outbreak first began, he said. However, the commissioners let the fair board decide. The board voted to move forward with the vote of 7-4.

“If the fair were to be canceled due to the state of which we are in currently,” Kinzer said, “I see that the community will understand as many things within the area are seemingly up in the air.”

Kinzer said if the fair will go on, it will look nothing like previous years due to social distancing regulations.

The fair board will present a plan that stays within the Phase 3 guidelines. If the plan complies with Phase 3 guidelines, the Whitman County commissioners may approve having the fair this year. That decision will be made on June 15, Kinzer said.

Livestock is cared for to be at the peak of quality and size at fair time, he said. There is no option for moving the fair to a later date. If it is decided to cancel the fair, the animals can be sold on the open market.

He also said the county has appreciated the community’s feedback.

“The community is very responsive even though these conditions are not ones that we had expected,” he said. 

The article has been updated to clarify some parts of the article, including the fact that the decision for the Palouse Empire Fair has yet to be made.