Fresh from the Market — It’s time for the fair

There is one annual greatly anticipated event that simply shouts “Summer” — The Grays Harbor County Fair! I’m already drooling just thinking about my banana split from the Dairy Farmers booth. They let you choose whatever flavor of ice cream and topping you want to have slathered on top of that banana. Naturally I’ll be heading to the other food vendors also, but dessert always comes first at the fair. It’s a tradition.

The fair begins on Wednesday and the headline entertainment at 8 p.m. is the Charlie Daniels Band. OMG! Back in the late ’80s, Charlie Daniels stood out as one of the true musical outlaws. His classic hit “Devil Went Down to Georgia” never fails to thrill and we’ll be there to hear it in person!

If you have been paying attention, your refrigerator, freezer and pantry are now well stocked with great berries. This is it! Your chance to put your best recipes to the test happens on Wednesday when the Annual Berry Baking Contest is held. Your entries need to be delivered to the Pavilion Annex between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Little wild blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, loganberries, marionberries. I expect to see some gorgeous pies sporting winning blue ribbons after the judges make their decisions. My favorite exhibit area is always the pavilion which showcases the home arts; cooking, canning, sewing, knitting, needlework, painting, quilting — spectacular works that leave me wishing for more hours in each day. As a youngster I belonged to 4-H and spent many summer days in preparation for the fair. The Make It With Wool Contest was a major event back then — you had to model your creation in front of the judges, and that was always the day that the temperatures zoomed to the upper 90 degree range. We suffered for our ribbons, but I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.

My next visit will be to the Master Gardeners area. These folks have created permanent gardens on the grounds which provide areas of repose. Prior to the garden oasis creation at the fair entry area, there was no place for people to take a quiet break. The other Master Gardeners display garden showcases vegetable and flower gardens that even my grandmother would have been proud of. It is sheer delight to wander along admiring the profusion of blossoms and produce-laden vines. It takes great self control to keep from pilfering a perfectly ripe tomato, but the garden remains wonderfully intact and gorgeous every single day. Being a gardening nerd, I always visit the compost area and ogle the methods that these experts recommend for turning garbage into gold. It is thanks to their exhibit that we learned how to make a composter that doesn’t attract unwelcome guests such as raccoons, possums, and unmentionable vermin. The volunteers are wonderfully knowledgeable and helpful, don’t be shy in asking them questions!

The fair brochure is tantalizing in listing daily entertainment — I’m curious about Goat Mountain, and am surprised to see that Elephant Rides are being offered! The Predators of the Heart is a well respected traveling Wildlife Exhibitor which presents a pack of wolves, cougar, bobcats, birds of prey,and reptile species with the entire emphasis being on conservation and education. Such a collection will never again be possible, as the state passed a law in 2007 forbidding private ownership of wild animals. Predators of the Heart was given permission to maintain their animals, as releasing them into the wild at that point would have been inhumane.

The Petting Zoo is an irresistible draw, and I love visiting the pigs. Especially if there is a sow with piglets. And the Poultry Barn is awesome!

I’m proud to say that many of the vendors at the Grays Harbor Farmers Market in Hoquiam will be participating in the fair. Naomi Offner has been painting for many months to create stunning decorations for the patriotic theme of this year’s fair — her Statue of Liberty is as awe-inspiring as the real thing! However, Nancy won’t be entering any of her pies, cookies or breads in the competition, we’re keeping her too busy at the market. We specialize in Blue Ribbon baking, produce, plants, painting, and crafts every day of the year!

Barbara Bennett Parsons is the manager of the Grays Harbor Farmers Market in Hoquiam.