The Rambling Writer at the County Fair


When mid-August rolls around, it’s time for the Northwest Washington Fair, a celebration of all things rural in our corner of Whatcom County. Growing up 4th-genertion here, I visited the fair annually as a child and later joined equestrian 4H to compete in horse events alongside the other county kids. So now that I’m resettled in my home after many extended rambles over the globe, when it’s time once more for the “Lynden Fair,” I can’t resist the lure of petting baby animals, watching the draft-horse hitches, and admiring displays of canned vegetables and prize dahlias.


I’m welcomed to the gate with this sign displaying our blistering August heat of 76 degrees (sorry, my friends broiling in the Southwest). I head past the Carnival and the vendors…




…to the arena for the daily horse show with its main attraction of 6-horse draft hitches pulling wagons. Many of these horses are working members of local farms.


The fun comes when five of these wagons begin the “melee” and weave in and around each other, making amazingly tight turns with these huge horses.


This time, one of the drivers made too tight a turn, and the harness got caught in one of the horse’s legs, prompting some serious kicking and jostling. It takes a brave person to dart in and calm them down to straighten out the harness. But all was well, and the team kept going.


I have fond memories of these huge, gentle horses from time spent on my Grandpa Fritz’s raspberry farm out in the county near Silver Lake. My sisters and I would stay in the cabins there and bring our horses to ride during time off from picking berries. The neighbors down the road, the Blivens, still worked their farm with their draft horses pulling the equipment, and we occasionally got to ride the horses in their pasture. Talk about a stretch sitting bareback astride one of those broad backs! The family had a big old wooden barn with a hay loft where we dropped from a high rope swing into the hay pile. My older sister was more attracted to the handsome Bliven brothers, who sang and played their guitars in the evening.

My family has always loved horses.  Here is a photo of my Grandpa Fritz Weihe and Grandma Sara in front of Larsen Livery Barn in Bellingham in 1911, the year of the first Northwest Washington Fair. (Grandpa’s father emigrated here from Germany with his brother and started one of the first bakeries in the townships, after they sent for two mail-order brides from the Old Country.) Gramps often told me stories of the old days when he’d take his horse and buggy out “courting.”


And here’s my mother Helen on Teddy, with her dog also named Teddy, who looks a bit like Thor’s and my dog Bear.


My sister Gail (left) and I mostly tore around bareback over the fields and wooded trails in then-undeveloped Happy Valley in Bellingham, but here we are with saddles as we get ready to practice for 4H events on Taffy (left) and my feisty little half-Arab mare Star. That horse loved to run, and she and I became infamous during the obstacle course event at the Fair when I had to pick up a metal bucket of rocks from a barrel and ride it over to another barrel. Star did NOT like the rattling rocks, and we ended up bucking and jumping over most of the course before I listened to everyone shouting, “Drop the bucket!”


Another fun event at the horse show is the chariot race with teams of Shetland ponies.


This year they even had a team of mules.


After the show, I walked past the draft horse barn where this guy was being groomed for a later event. With the size of those hooves, it’s a good thing they are mostly so mellow.


This gal was getting ready to compete in the Ladies Cart class.


Past a display of giant tractors and farm equipment, and a pretty row of dahlias, I found the goat “fitting and showing” contest underway.





In the petting barn, I joined all the kids petting the kids and other babies.






This Llama gave me a friendly sniff (they like to smell your breath).


On my way out, I happened upon the rooster crowing-contest and winner.


As the sponsors say, “Something for everyone at the Fair!”

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