Fair kicks off with harvest theme

Opening-day festivities for the 144th annual fair include tonight's Garry Allan concert.

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Swinging his lasso above his head, cowboy Clint Radtke takes off after a calf during calf-roping during the opening day of the Walla Walla Fair and Frontier Days Rodeo. Radtke successfully roped his calf in 14.8 seconds. Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Time to saddle up, gather the family and reap some of the heritage of our Walla Walla Valley.

The 144th annual Walla Walla Fair & Frontier Days officially opened its gates this morning, ushering in an event that's rooted in local history, tradition and community spirit.

"Harvest Fun for Everyone" was chosen as this year's theme. "It's to try to make sure everyone understands it's not just about the farmers," explained Fair Manager Cory Hewitt. "Even the back yard gardeners are responsible for our food supply. It's to make people remember it's hard work, but it is fun."

To illustrate, a passel of antique farm machinery -- including tractors, combines, trucks and a manure spreader -- will be displayed on lawns along the midway and Community Building.

People started streaming in at 11 this morning to see the traditional exhibits and gawk at the farm animals while biting into burgers and pigging out on corn dogs.

The carnival rides are spinning; five days of nearly continuous family entertainment have begun at no extra charge.

And patrons will be lining up for tonight's headliner Gary Allan. The concert, with the special guest duo Bomshel. starts at 7 p.m.

Thursday's featured event is the Demolition Derby, which promises 200 entries on a crash course beginning at 6 p.m. Spectators will be treated to about 35 "heat races" before the finale.

Friday is Kids Day when ages 6-13 are admitted for $2 and can participate in special activities in the Kid's Farm Center during the afternoon. At various times, prizes will be awarded and free Popsicle treats will be available.

Every day, children can experience farm life in Barn 3 and compete in a tractor pull on the Midway Lawn.

Organizers also are inviting kids to wear their most fashionable western garb and enter the Little Buckaroo Contest at the Kid's Farm Center. Judging will be Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 4 p.m.

Also for three days starting Friday, you can bet the fastest horses from much of the Northwest will be off and running at the state-licensed pari-mutuel horse races starting at 1 p.m.

Broncos and as many as 400 cowboys and cowgirls will buck for shares of $42,000 in purse money at the Frontier Days Rodeo on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 7 p.m. Special tributes will be presented each night. Friday, fans are encouraged to be "tough enough to wear pink" to show support for cancer victims and survivors. Walla Walla Valley rodeo contestants will be honored Saturday. And you can don the red, white and blue Sunday in a salute to troops for their service.

Professional bullfighters Rowdy Barry and Ryan Wilson will appear, as will clown/barrelman JJ Harrison.

The fair parade with about 125 entries will march downtown Saturday starting at 10 a.m. Led by the parade marshals, Dave and Maralyn Carey, the event will spotlight the current fair court -- Queen Audrey Smith and princesses Erin Giusti and Brittney Granger -- and include the usual array of floats, mounted groups, wagons, clowns and cars.

Livestock projects will be exhibited in the barn areas at the fairgrounds each day. Fair-themed clothing and mementos will be available for purchase in the Pavilion.

Fairgoers can catch a bus ride on Valley Transit from the downtown transfer center through Saturday. At the fairgrounds, electric-powered shuttle carts courtesy of Wheatland Village and AmericanWest Bank will transport patrons from one major exhibit area to another.

Appropriately fair weather is predicted, as well, with clearing skies and highs in the 80s for most days of the event.

Terry McConn can be reached at terrymcconn@wwub.com or 526-8319.

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