Fabric of the fair: Community prepares for 97th Whidbey Island Fair

— Created June 2, 2021 by Kacie Jo Voeller

By Kacie Jo Voeller

Prepare for a carnival, petting zoo, 4-H displays and yards of fun this summer. The Whidbey Island Fair will return July 15-18, after not running in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns.

Carol Coble, Whidbey Island Fair administrator, said the fair’s organizers and vendors alike are looking forward to bringing the event back to the island.

“Everybody wants to be in the know, everybody wants to participate,” she said. “There is just really a lot of enthusiasm happening around it.”

Coble said the team at the fair will work to accommodate any necessary safety guidelines issued by the state. She said the fairgrounds have over ten acres available, which will allow for patrons to keep their distance as needed.

“I think that people are ready to get back out there and be able to do things,” she said. “And we are in a position that we have so much space and we can control our gates so that is really giving us a lot of relief.”

While an exact lineup has yet to be finalized, Coble said focusing on bringing in local vendors and entertainment has been especially important for the 2021 fair.

“The other thing that we have really focused on this year is we are hiring mainly local entertainment,” she said.

Coble shared many crowd favorites will be returning this year, including but not limited to 4-H exhibitions, a petting zoo and carnival rides – all at an affordable price. She said the group is also considering including a barrel race in the festivities.

“We are super excited to be moving forward in 2021,” she said.

One of the largest departments of the fair from year to year is the quilting department, Coble shared. A local quilting guild, Quilters on the Rock (QOR), has a long record of involvement at the event. Susan Kreps, the QOR website coordinator and a member of the fair committee, said the organization looks forward to taking part in this year’s event.

“QOR guild members have been involved for decades through quilt submission and volunteering, but this is the first year the guild as an entity has taken over coordination of the quilting department in an effort to ensure the art of quilting remains visible on Whidbey Island,” she said. “We have established a committee to oversee the process.”

            Kreps said the fair offers guild members an opportunity to showcase their efforts while also providing an introduction to quilting to the community.

“In addition to the fellowship of sharing time and experiences with other quilters, our primary goal is to inspire and encourage others interested in quilting, especially future generations,” she said. “Community events like the fair allow us to share our skills and handiwork and provide an opportunity to teach interested new quilters. The fair is a great venue to show the community that the art of quilting is alive and well on Whidbey Island.”

            The past year has been nothing short of unpredictable, and Kreps said QOR looks forward to having the opportunity to come together as a guild and with island residents at the fair.

“One of the biggest challenges of COVID has been isolation and the loss of community, especially in a small place like Whidbey Island,” she said. “Being able to reunite in person with other guild members for support and collaboration is priceless. The fair is our chance to extend that spirit back out into the community.” 

            This year also saw the emergence of a committee to help manage the department.

             “The quilting department will be managed by a collaborative committee, composed of 14 guild members, chaired by Linda Nienhuis,” she said. “We formed a committee to lessen the workload on one member, while ensuring quilting would remain represented at the fair.”

            Kreps said a key player in the quilting department of the fair had also recently retired, and current quilters hope to honor the legacy of her work this year.

            “Former superintendent, Anita Smith, created a wonderful venue in the Malone Home Arts Building that showcased quilting from all ages and skill levels across the island, offered opportunities to share the wonders of quilting and carry on the legacy of quilting,” she said. “We thank her for all her efforts and will continue in her footsteps this year.”  

            Kreps said the guild is active in the community beyond the fair as well and donates to the WhidbeyHealth Medical Ambulatory Clinic (MAC), the local foster care program through the Department of Social and Health Services, families in transition through the North Whidbey Opportunity Council, military service members through American Hero Quilts and University of Washington Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.  

“Quilters are very generous with their time, creativity and fabric,” she said. “There is something very personal involved in the creation of a quilt and then sending it forward to someone in need.  Quilts provide joy, comfort and happiness in addition to warmth. Quilts are a gift that let people know that regardless of their circumstances, there is always someone there to offer support and care.” 

She said the fair serves as a place where others can explore the world of quilting.

“The Whidbey Island Fair offers all Whidbey Island quilters the opportunity to share the love of quilting and invite everyone to join the Quilters on the Rock, who learned during the 2020 pandemic that, ‘If you know how to quilt, you will never be bored,’” she said.

For more information on the fair, visit whidbeyislandfair.com. To learn more about QOR, visit quiltersontherock.com.