Kitsap County Fair: Something for everyone

Hell's Belles performed at the Kitsap County Fair & Stampede
— image credit: Seraine Page

The fair was the place to be last week. Scores of people crowded the Kitsap County Fairgrounds for greasy food, spinning rides, bucking bulls and a tribute AC/DC band known as Hell’s Belles.

Cars lined the roads coming and going to the fair, and vehicles kicked up dust while pulling into the parking lot of the fairgrounds Friday evening. With a slight breeze, the evening quickly got chilly once the sun went down, prompting people to get in line for snacks like hot, deep fried Snickers and Krispy Kreme donut hamburgers to warm them up.

If the food wasn’t enough to bring residents to the grounds, a variety of acts also offered entertainment for all ages, including a hypnosis show, rodeo and concert. Some visitors admitted they hadn’t been to a fair or rodeo in a long time, but were glad that county fair was around.

“It’s the first time in many years,” Fred Maxwell said of visiting the Kitsap County Fair & Stampede. He found his way to the rodeo and concert, part of a combination ticket, and ended up in the bleachers to watch on of his favorite local bands.

“The atmosphere of all the people getting together and people having fun (is my favorite),” he said. “It’s a party atmosphere.”

Maxwell said he enjoyed visiting the various vendors prior to making his way to the arena to watch cowboys riding bulls. But, he was more excited for the AC/DC tribute band since he’s seen them before.

“I have no problem with it,” he said of the females performing the male group’s songs. “If they perform good, I’m all for it. All they have to do is play good and sing good, and I’m happy.”

Maxwell came with a friend, Bill Huckabee, who was sporting a black t-shirt with Hell’s Belles stretched across the front. Huckabee said the fair was a great place for entertainment, but also for bringing back fond memories. He frequently brought his daughter to the fair when she was a child, and he remarked he also hadn’t been to the fair in forever.

Other than the food, Huckabee said the entertainment is always thrilling.

“The acts they bring in (are good),’” he said. “I just like the AC/DC music. They play it real well.”

As for the rodeo prior to the concert, Huckabee said it was his first time to one.

“I just never thought about it,” he said simply.

Overall, Huckabee said the event is something he always has great memories from, and that the show is always a good one if Hell’s Belles are involved.

“I really enjoy it,” he said. “I find it a very relaxing day.”

After the rodeo finished up around 9:30 p.m., the fairgrounds staff opened the arena up to fans for entrance to the concert, which was held at the far left side of the arena, tucked between the stands and the horse pens. Fans quickly surrounded the stage as lead singer Amber Saxton told the crowd, “We’re gonna have a great night,” she shouted. “We’re gonna give you some good rock ‘n’ roll the old fashioned way.”

The all-female rock band opened up with “Rock ‘N’ Roll Train,” followed by the original band’s famed hit, “Highway to Hell,” which prompted many cowboy hat-clad audience members to throw up the rock ‘n’ roll sign to the singers. Lead guitarist Adrian Conner revved the crowd by head-banging with her blond locks flailing in the traditional rock ‘n’ roll style. Conner also ran through the crowd, stopping among fans to strike several chords before making her way back to the stage.

Debbie Madche came to the show with her husband to show her support of the rock band. Madche's co-worker’s sister is part of the Hell’s Belles, she said, which is part of the reason she came out to the show. The pair had planned to see them at a prior concert, but missed the concert due to rain.

“We like ‘em,” Madche said. “It seems like they have a lot of energy.”

As an AC/DC fan, Madche said she was impressed by the tribute band and was glad she came. For selecting a favorite original song, she couldn’t single out one track that she liked best.

“Gosh, I don’t know,” she said. “They have a lot of good ones.”

Despite the rowdy and excited crowd, as of around 10:30 p.m., the Kitsap County Sheriff’s officers on site had no reports of trouble on the grounds. Sheriff Sgt. Steve Sipple estimated there were between 1,000 to 2,000 people in attendance during the concert.

On Saturday, crowds at the Kitsap County Fair & Stampede were busy moving between the Crazy Animal Races, carnival rides and the Wenatchee Youth Circus.

Inside the President's Hall, Ann Long, Nancy Olson and Gay Fawcett, were showing passerby's their crafts. As members of the Silverdale chapter of the Clothing and Textiles Advisors of America Sewing Guild, the women were on hand to demonstrate how to sew and knit.

"Right now I'm working on some shorts for my grandson," Long said. "We're just here to show people how to sew and answer their questions."

Surrounded by all sorts of handicrafts that were made by Kitsap County residents and entered in the fair, Olson carried on with her knitting. As for the questions people had, "just about anything," said Long.

"This morning one woman wanted to know how to make a French seam," she said.

The women said they dedicate themselves to passing on their sewing and knitting talents so that they aren't lost over time.

"They don't teach these things in school anymore," she said. "There's no more home ec classes."

Outside near the food booths, Beth and Ken Wilson and their children Jesse and Sylvia, were enjoying hamburgers, corn dogs and fries. This was their first time at the Kitsap County Fair & Stampede.

"We just moved to Bremerton and so this is our first fair here," said Beth. "We love it. There's so much to look at and it's all so well laid out."

She said they moved from Oklahoma and compared to the Oklahoma State fair, this fair was better.

"The Oklahoma State Fair is bigger, but there's so many people there you can't get around," Beth said.

The family had been through the barns and looked at the vegetables. They were going to see the horse barns next.

"I liked the big pumpkin the best," said Sylvia.

As for her brother, "I liked petting the animals," Jesse said.

At the Southern Sweet Roasted Corn booth, ears were selling like mad.

"We're having a great day," said Jason Falk, a food services worker at the stand. "We've been busy."

The roasted ears of corn with shucks still attached, were served with butter and a big variety of spices and salt for $4 each.

Falk said they'd sold more than 1,000 ears by mid-day Saturday and thought they'd sell at least that many more before the fair ended on Sunday.

One of the most popular kids rides was the Walk on Water game, where kids were zipped into large hard-shelled plastic balls that floated on water.

According to Kevin Gasca, the rides been around for m ore than five years, and this was its second appearance at the Kitsap fair.

"These balls will hold up to 440 pounds," Gasca said. "So any age person  can do this."

Each rider gets about five minutes inside the balls which are inflated and deflated as riders enter and exit them.

For Levi Ellison, 8, of Port Orchard, it was great.

"It's pretty cool," said Levi, who was at the fair with his dad, Josh. "This was my first time in the ball and I liked it," he said, although he admitted he thought the ball might break and he might get wet.

Levi also showed his rabbit at the fair. He's a member of the South Kitsap 4-H.

In the chicken house, Kate Gleason, a Bainbridge Island fifth grader, was showing four of her chickens. She took two third places and two first places.

"We have a big yard and a big outdoor enclosure when we keep our chickens," she said. She's part of the Bainbridge Island 4-H Club. "Sometimes I dress my chickens up like random people and compete with them. But other times I just show them."

One of her chickens, Raven, and Americana, got a third place.

"They said her tail feathers aren't that great," Kate said.

But both Cricket and Fancy, Bantam chickens, both got first place ribbons.

Kate said her family also has chickens so they can have the eggs.

"We bake with them, and we give them to the neighbors," she said. "And we also sell them at the farmers market."

Throughout the day on Saturday, the bleachers at both the Crazy Animal Races and the Wenatchee Youth Circus were full. Each Youth Circus performance had about 300 attendees per show, said Sunny Saunders, fair organizer.

Fire-eating performers, and high-wire acts amused the kids, while across the fairgrounds, small children watched a pig race a chicken.

Just a short distance away, other children with painted-faces rode a camel.

Nearby, kids wandered through the Pet Me Farm, petting goats and lambs.

















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