Fairs Face Funding Hurdles in 2021

Boy Scout troop 2216 at the 2018 Clayton Community Fair opening ceremony.

With the Governor mandating budget cuts across the board, the Department of Agriculture may be forced to cut funding that supports community fairgrounds as well. These cuts, in addition to the loss of revenue from canceled events, will be hard on many fairs.

About the Fair Fund

Historically, the fair fund was supported by revenue from taxes on horse racing. In 1998 the law was adjusted so that the fair fund would be supported by the state general fund (RCW 15.76), and in 2002 that fund was fixed at $2 million per year. Run through the fair’s commission, this fund is distributed on a “merit ranking system” to approximately 68 fairs throughout Washington State each year.  This fund is among one of many items that are being reviewed for cuts or removals in response to the revenue shortfall caused by Covid-19.

Crystal LeVasseur, a voting member of the Clayton Community Fair Board and the car show superintendent, is concerned about these cuts because they are, “pulling funding that goes directly to kids.” 

How Can You Help?

Fortunately, the Clayton Community Fair has been run in a “fiscally responsible and conservative manner” and member Crystal LeVasseur is confident that the Fair will be able to weather this storm, though the cancellation of this year’s Clayton Pro West Rodeo, a large source of funding for the fairgrounds, was a hard hit. The Clayton Fairgrounds are run by dedicated community members, and now more than ever they need your support. Learn more about donating or volunteering with the fair on their website: Claytoncommunityfair.com.

On the legislative side, Heather Hansen, a lobbyist representing the Washington State Fairs Association, urges everyone to share their fair stories. Often those in decision making positions do not understand all that community fairs represent and the positive impact that fairs have on youth participants. These great educational opportunities are funded in part by this fair fund, and it is important the funding remains for future events. As Hansen stated, each year fairs support our rural communities and share the rural lifestyle with the general public, all while providing enriching educational experiences to children throughout the state. Heather Hansen urges everyone to share their stories and reach out to their representatives. You can find your local representatives at:  App.leg.wa.gov/districtfinder

Clayton Community Fair

The Deer Park Fair Association is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization, “whose aim is to preserve our agricultural heritage through the annual Clayton Community Fair.”  As stated on their website, claytoncommunityfair.com, “The purpose of the Fair Association is to support the positive education and enrichment of our youth and of our community by providing an inviting environment where young and old alike may demonstrate, display, present or show that something special he or she has baked, grown, created, raised, sewn or trained, be it a hobby or a business. Everyone will benefit by recognizing and promoting the positive abilities of our youth and of our community.”

Held the 4th weekend in August each year, the Clayton Community Fair is an event that many participants, especially children, spend the whole year preparing for. By raising livestock, growing vegetables, baking special items, and so much more, these kids are learning valuable lessons on hard work. Winners in each category can earn ribbons and even cash prizes. As Crystal LeVasseur pointed out, “the fair is more than just cotton candy and carnival rides, these kids are learning valuable life lessons.” In fact, Crystal’s children participated in the fair, and were disappointed when this year’s show had to be canceled, leaving them with projects and animals that they were not able to show despite a year’s effort.

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Fair Royalty

Each year young ladies get to apply for the opportunity to participate in the Fair Royalty program. The Clayton Community Fair Queen and Princess represent the Fair and the community at several events each year (Pumpkin Lane, Winter Fest, Clayton Pro West Rodeo, Clayton Brickyard Days, and many more). In addition to events, these young leaders attend fair meetings, promote the Clayton Community Fair, and assist with the fair books. These opportunities help teach young ladies how to be leaders in their communities while learning valuable life lessons like organizational skills, public speaking, and community service. With the cancellation of the Clayton Pro Rodeo and the 2020 Clayton Community Fair, the past year’s royalty did not receive their full experience. However, on their Facebook Page the Clayton Community Fair announced that the 2021 fair will be represented by alumni of the Fair Royalty Program. This will help fill the gap left by the loss of fair elections this year, while hopefully giving the past royalty a chance to participate in this 2021 fair. As they stated on their page, “These girls have rolled with this crazy year with grace and class! Thank you Queen Kaili and Princess Lizzy for representing us!”

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