Pony rides, carnival games and live entertainment drew hundreds to the annual Cowlitz County Fair on Thursday, kicking off the weekend amid a heat wave that saw temperatures in the 90s all week.
Attendees could get all the typical carnival fare, complete with funnel cakes, hot dogs, burgers, cheesy fries and cotton candy. Rides included the super slide, a merry-go-round and bumper cars enjoyed by children, teens and adults alike.
The heat did not deter local artist Lindsey Thomas from displaying her work at the fair, which marked only her second ever.
“We got lucky,” Thomas said.
Thomas said she was happy to see people coming by to look at her display of handmade bags, prints and framed pictures. As temperatures climbed, she got nervous and had to make sure the heat didn’t warp her printed art.
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“Everything was kind of melting,” Thomas said.
An air conditioned RiverCities Transit bus was parked outside the Cowlitz County Event Center through Friday to double as a cooling shelter, while fans cooled down nearby exhibit halls. Event Center Director Kim Bowcutt said these original exhibit halls have always been cooled down with fans, while planned maintenance on the event center’s air conditioner is underway this week.
Livestock shows and animal farms were also very popular for the entire day, said Karen Triplett, pony wrangler and owner of Flying Hat Ranch based in Selah.
Triplett said she has owned horses nearly her entire life, and the family-owned Flying Hat Ranch has hosted pony rides at the Cowlitz County Fair for about five years, she said.
“It’s like coming back home,” Triplett said.
For many children and some adults, Triplett said the fair could be their first opportunity to ride a horse and learn more about them.
Traveling to the fair every year, with a number of horses and Flying Hat Ranch employees beside her, is worth it because of the children’s reactions to being on a pony, she said.
“They get that first horse experience and you can see how fun it is for them,” Triplett said.
Fair attendees also got a glimpse of farm animals from across the region, from sheep to baby calves.
Ashlee Eatherton of Castle Rock-based Eatherton Cattle said they have been coming to the Cowlitz County Fair since 2003 to provide people with educational experiences on cattle.
Before then, when Eatherton was younger she was involved with 4-H youth development programs that helped grow her love of the animals.
“We’ve grown up doing it,” Eatherton said.
New this year to the fair are several new baby calves, which has become a hit with children. At 1:30 p.m. each day of the fair they plan to do a feeding demonstration with the young cows.
“Kids really get a kick out of it,” Eatherton said.
But they are really here to get involved with the upcoming livestock competitions, Eatherton said.
For Saturday, the judging schedule includes a horse showmanship competition at 10 a.m., followed by a overall livestock judging contest 12:30 p.m. hosted by 4-H and Future Farmers of America. A horse awards ceremony is scheduled for 4 p.m.
The fair will go noon to 11 p.m. Saturday. Carnival rides also open at noon.