Waiting at a stoplight usually isn’t fun, but if you’re stopped at the intersection of Government Way and Kathleen Avenue on a hot day in August, you may get a burst of excitement. Tucked on that corner is the beautiful Kootenai County Fairgrounds, and many who look forward to the yearly Fair get excited simply by seeing those first trucks pull in and begin setting up.
Much like the City of Coeur d’Alene itself, the Fair features events and attractions found in a bigger city mixed with that special small-town charm that brings us together as a community. This summer tradition does a fantastic job of keeping familiar favorites while also providing enough variety to continually feel new and exciting. Among the yearly switch ups is the always creative theme. This year it’s “Barn in the USA!” and those animals certainly are a popular bunch.
From picturesque Clydesdale horses to cows, llamas and chickens in every size and color, you’ll find all ages wandering through the various barns announcing which animals are their favorites. For many, they’ve attended the Fair throughout their life since childhood, maybe even coming full circle and now bringing their own children to the Fair. Traditions keep us together, and it often seems that the longer the traditions go on, the more special they become.
So, what keeps people coming back year after year? One reason, of course, is the carnival rides and games. You can’t have teenage nostalgia and iconic romantic movies without a trip around the ferris wheel or a stuffed animal won at a ring toss game. The North Idaho State Fair is no different, with groups of teenagers excitedly racing from ride to ride and adults taking a ride down memory lane. There’s plenty of fun for the younger kiddos, too, before they graduate into Zipper territory as the years go by.
Two more consistently cited staples are the animals and the food. After oohing and ahhing at our four-legged and feathery friends, the enticing smells lure the crowd over to the rows of food trucks and the large indoor food court. For the adult-only groups, beer and wine is also available to sip on while you stroll. Families bond while devouring an elephant ear (or two), but there’s more happening than just taste buds being satisfied—it’s also a great opportunity to feature local businesses. You might even find your new favorite food spot after sampling their cuisine at the Fair.
The opportunity to feature and celebrate members of our community is a really neat thing seen
each and every year. Keep an eye out for the tremendous number of local musicians, dance groups, singers and cheer squads entertaining the crowds and keeping the energy up. The crafts barns are filled entries that range from cupcake creations to quilts that are truly a work of art to stunning photography and beyond. The many creative categories allow a place for everyone to shine! As Fair goers walk through and recognize names and run into familiar faces, the warmth of a small world feel fills your heart. Maybe that feeling, beyond anything, is what keeps us coming back year after year.
The Fair doesn’t only provide good feelings to the more than 80,000 patrons that come to enjoy it during its five day run—it also does some incredible things to benefit our community. On opening day every year, admission discounts are offered in exchange for non-perishable food donations. In 2017, over 400 pounds of food was brought in for the Post Falls Food Bank!
Thanks to the work of local nonprofit groups and the North Idaho State Fair, following the 2017 Fair, over $90,000 went back into the Coeur d’Alene community. In 2017, Chicks N Chaps and Paint the Fair Pink raised over $24,000—half for the Kootenai Health Foundation’s fund to support cancer and the other half for the Fair Foundation’s youth scholarship fund. This year’s Fair is sure to report similar amazing numbers!
With a phenomenal reputation throughout the rodeo community, The Gem State Stampede offers free bleacher seating at the Sunday matinee performance as part of “Family Day,” ensuring that no family has to miss out on the fun due to financial reasons. Plus, if you look around, you’ll see that the grounds are filled with volunteers of all ages. Some are helping with cleanup while others are doing fun giveaways and sharing information about their business, product or cause.
Each year we return for more funnel cakes and cheese fries, rodeos and petting zoos, talent and awards, and memories made lit by multi-colored lights to a soundtrack of laughter and music. It lasts just long enough to be missed and looked forward to while still having time to make an incredible impact that betters our community and the people in it. For those who are yearly Fair goers, take an extra moment this year to look around and really take in how this event is such a representation of how special our community is. If you’ve never been, maybe it’s time to start a new tradition.
This year's Fair takes place August 22 through 28! First stop: elephant ears!