The 2014 version of the Grays Harbor County Fair starts Wednesday, with an impressive lineup of musical entertainment that includes rising country star Thomas Rhett, action on the Grays Harbor Raceway and the usual exhibits of animals, vegetables and amazing baked goods. Speaking of baked goods, there will be scones.
“We are very excited about this year’s fair,” fair manager Mike Bruner said. “We say that every year, but we mean it every year. This year, there is something special about this year. We have a headline entertainer who was whom we were shooting for and everything else has just built around that.”
Rhett will kick off a week of fun at the Fairgrounds in Elma with his show at 8 p.m. on Wednesday. Rhett has had country hits that include “Beer With Jesus,” “It Goes Like This” and “Get Me Some Of That” — all on his debut album titled “It Goes Like This.”
While general admission seating for the concert is free with fair admission, a few hundred golden circle tickets were opened at a cost of $40 each.
“We haven’t even really begun advertising that show and we have already sold almost 300 tickets,” said Rod Easton, the fair and event supervisor.
Easton said there have already been two more sections of golden circle seating added just to accommodate the demand to see Rhett.
Bruner said the fair started to target Rhett to headline almost a year ago, but even after a deal was signed it wasn’t clear if the 24-year-old would be performing. Rhett was offered the opportunity to be a part of Miranda Lambert’s “Platinum” tour and he jumped at the chance to perform alongside the 2014 Academy of Country Music female vocalist of the year. Even with a spot on Lambert’s tour, Rhett has decided to do a series of six concerts on his own at county fairs around the country before catching back up with Lambert’s tour on Aug. 8, in Sacramento, Calif. Rhett is now reportedly asking $100,000 to perform each show, but because the fair booked him so far in advance, the cost will be less than half of his current price tag. The fair not only got a deal on Rhett, but the sponsorships for 2014 are up $11,000 from 2013.
In addition to Rhett, the fair schedule will include a musical headliner at 8 p.m. on the Pepsi stage each of the first four nights of the fair, including Seattle band Cody Beebe &the Crooks on Thursday, Grays Harbor’s own Humptulips on Friday and Van Halen tribute band Atomic Punks on Saturday.
The fair entertainment will not be limited to musical talent, as Matt Baker, featured on the television programs “America’s Got Talent” and “Last Comic Standing,” will be performing a comedy and stunt show two to three times each day. The Predators of the Heart reptile shows provide another daily option.
For those looking to get the best value for your dollar, there are several promotions throughout the week to get a discount to the $10 cost of admission for adults. There will be a military discount offered each day of the fair for $2 off admission with a military ID. For those really looking for a discount, admission is free on Sunday from 10-11 a.m.
“We call Saturday ‘family value day,’ because a person can pay $10 to come in the gate and they get to go to the races for free, they get to go to Predators of the Heart show for free and they get to see all of the exhibits and then they get to see a concert afterward,” Bruner said. “I don’t think there are many places you can go and spend an entire day and get that kind of entertainment and fun for $10.”
Included among the animal showing is a youth show for Scottish Highland cattle. Bob Swalander of Elma purchased a few of the Scottish Highland breed seven years ago and despite having been out of FFA for a few decades, he began showing the cattle. When he was in Denver at a national show last year he noticed a youth show and had an idea.
“One of the drawbacks of this breed is that in FFA or 4H they don’t allow horned animals, and one of the attributes of the breed is the horns, so we don’t want to cut them off,” Swalander said. “We went to the fair board and we asked if it would be alright it we had a junior show here, separate from FFA and separate from 4H, A venue for the kids to learn some showmanship and put the breed out there to the public.”
In addition to the animal showing, there will be several competitions such as the annual berry baking contest at 10 a.m. Wednesday, the hot dog eating contest at 1 p.m. Thursday, the cake decorating contest at 2 p.m. and one of the best displays of local talent, the fair talent show, at 6 p.m. on Friday.
Whether you are looking forward to Thomas Rhett on Wednesday, $2 carnival rides on Thursday, the talent show on Friday, car races on Saturday or the cheerleading exhibition on Sunday, there is truly something for everyone at the 2014 Grays Harbor County Fair.