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Community Spotlight: Running the Kitsap County Fair all about the rush for Erickson

Lauran Erickson - Courtesy photo
Lauran Erickson
— image credit: Courtesy photo

By PAUL BALCERAK

Staff writer

The Kitsap County Fair may only take place for one week each year, but planning and preparing for it is a full-time job. In fact, it’s Lauran Erickson’s job.

Erickson has been the Fair and special events manager for Kitsap County since 2001. Her job consists of putting together the Fair and Stampede, but she also helps organize other county events like the Haunted Barn and Holidazzle and non-county events like the Wedding Expo, which takes place at the Fairgrounds.

She’s also been fairly active in the community, formerly serving as president and vice president of Whaling Days and as a member of the Rotary Club of Silverdale. She’s currently serving with the Boys & Girls Club of Kitsap County, where she’s been a board member since the group’s inception in 2004.

Recently, we sat down with Erickson to talk about her job, the Fair and her favorite aspects of Silverdale life.

Question: What’s your favorite part about your job?

Answer: It’s the adrenaline. Building up to the event is one part of it, but then when the event’s actually going on, just watching the people. They’re just here to have fun and that’s probably the thing I enjoy the most.

Q: If you could participate in one of the rodeo events, which would it be and why?

A: Bull riding, because of the adrenaline, same thing. That same theme, that same rush. I shouldn’t say bull riding, I should say rough stock, which could be saddle, bronc, or bareback or bulls, just because of the adrenaline rush. The same thing the Fair is to me is that adrenaline buildup.

Q: Who’s been your favorite Fair performer?

A: I think last year’s Grand Funk Railroad was just great. I thought they did just an awesome job, but I’ve been so pleased with all of the performers we had. I’ve been very happy with everyone that we’ve gotten.

Q: What do you like more; planning the Fair or seeing it come together?

A: I think seeing it come together. Monday evening you kind of go away and the grass is still empty, and the parking lot is still empty, and the rodeo arena is still empty and then all of a sudden on Tuesday ... everything just sort of comes to life. That sort of coming to life, that almost birth, I like.

Q: Do you have a year in the past that sticks out as your favorite or most memorable?

A: There’s one that really sticks out, but I don’t know if I could call it my favorite year. It was my first year. 2001 is the year that we had 4 1/2 inches of rain in three days. Our first two rodeo performances on Wednesday and Thursday night were cancelled because the arena was flooded. We ended up making up both of those performances on Friday evening. I sort of felt like that year was (one of those where) absolutely everything that could have gone wrong really went wrong ... and yet we made it through.

Q: How much time do you spend at the Fair while it’s happening and what do you do during that time?

A: Actually I live here. I bring a trailer in. Our first day is Wednesday (and) my first night here is Tuesday. ... I’m here 24/7 through Sunday and I usually go home Sunday at around 10 or 11 o’clock. Tuesday’s a really hectic day because it’s a setup day. ... Wednesday morning, it’s usually a late vendor checking in, maybe a minor power issue, usually something like that. By the time we get to Thursday afternoon, things usually start to quiet down in terms of problems or concerns.

Q: What’s your favorite type of music?

A: Jazz.

Q: Do you get to spend much time enjoying the Fair as a spectator and not as a professional?

A: Not as much as I would like. I do in the sense that my family comes out. I have nieces and nephews that are all younger and so on the days that they come to the Fair they want to see me and talk to me and I do usually take a break at dinner, or lunch, or something and do have an opportunity to walk around with them and with my husband and my son for a little bit. ... I enjoy the working aspect of it, too, though. Just because there’s such a sense of community and such a sense of family that goes on when that event is happening that it really is very enjoyable to just walk the grounds and just watch.

Q: How long have you been in Silverdale?

A: I pretty much grew up here. We moved from Tacoma here when I was in elementary school, so I’ve lived here most of my life. I graduated from Central Kitsap (High School).

Q: What’s it been like for you to go from being a Fair spectator as a kid to being one of the main event coordinators as an adult?

A: It sort of showed me that, it has a face to the public that’s one thing, and the public doesn’t see so much of what goes on.

Q: Do you have a favorite ride at the fair?

A: My favorite ride at fairs would be roller coasters. We don’t have a roller coaster here, so my favorite ride here is probably the Ferris wheel.

Q: Do you have a favorite Fair food?

A: Elephant ears.

Q: What do you think is the most popular Fair event?

A: I think the most popular probably is the carnival and then the entertainment on the stages; the variety acts, the comedy and the juggler and the hypnotist and that kind of thing.

Q: What’s your favorite event?

A: I like the concerts and I like the entertainment. I like all areas for different things, but that’s probably the most “excitement,” I guess.

Q: How soon does planning for the fair begin?

A: It’ll actually start before the fair. 2008 will have started back in spring of 2007. For instance, we just got back from the national conference in December and we have booked some of our rodeo acts and contractors for 2009 already. It’s an ongoing basis that really doesn’t stop.

Q: What’s your favorite hobby?

A: Probably snow-skiing. Downhill.

Q: Have you ever been to any other state fairs?

A: Yeah, lots, actually. Certainly Puyallup. Certainly Central Washington. I have been to the California State Fair in Sacramento. I have been to lots of fairgrounds, not necessarily when their fair is going on.

Q: How does the Kitsap County Fair stack up against the others that you’ve been to?

A: I think we’re hardest on ourselves. You never know what you have until you have an opportunity to go out and look at other things and we have a great Fair. We have beautiful grounds. The one thing you hear so often — we always have other fair managers that visit our Fair — the one thing they comment about here is our green grass and how cool it is because we don’t have a lot of the asphalt and pavement that the rest of them do.

Q: What’s your first memory of Silverdale?

A: The Triple X drive-in. When my parents moved over from Tacoma — we came over and we were house hunting — and I was in, I think about the fifth grade, and that’s where we went to dinner.

Q: What are your thoughts on Silverdale incorporating?

A: That’s kind of a tough question for me because I see both good and ... there’s a downside to it. I can’t say that there’s a “negative” to it, but it just means to me that little Silverdale ... is really growing up rapidly. I think it could be a good thing for Silverdale for sure. I see some real positives and probably more positives than negatives. I hope that there’s a long and good planning process put in place when and if that happens.

Q: What’s your favorite part about Silverdale?

A: The small community feel that it still has with the proximity to a larger metropolitan area.

Q: What’s your favorite local event besides the Fair and why?

A: I like them all. I think Blackberry Festival is a great little festival that highlights Bremerton and I think Whaling Days is a great little festival that highlights Silverdale. Kitsap Party used to be a blast when the mall did it and that was always fun. Some of the things that we do, like we just did a fishing derby up on Island Lake last year that was just, I’m telling you that was just the best thing in the world to sit back and watch.

Q: If you could change one thing about Silverdale, what would it be and why?

A: I’d probably change the traffic in Silverdale. And why? Because it’s getting so congested and it’s really starting to take away from that small- town feel.

Q: What one person made the biggest impression on your life?

A: My mom. (She was) a single parent raising four kids (and she was a) strong, independent person.

Q: Do you have a favorite meal?

A: I love Italian. Anything Italian.

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