Fair Funding

    One-third of all fairs in Washington State could disappear within the next two years. This would be due to the devastating budget cuts that the state has imposed because of the McCleary Decision, which had begun as a lawsuit between the state of Washington and the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools. This resulted in the court ruling that the state was not filling its requirement to properly fund much of the school system. Because of this ruling, various state departments were forced to cut their budgets by 15 percent to make up the difference in education funding. The Washington Department of Agriculture, specifically, chose to suspend much of the state's fair funding, as well as some funding for food banks, on the account of the fairs "not having much to do with promoting the state's agricultural education."
    According to John Morrison, the Washington State Fair Association's current president,  approximately thirty percent of all fairs in Washington State depend on the fair fund budget by at least 60%.  Although the aforementioned thirty percent of fairs will be hit the hardest, they aren't the only ones affected.  In fact, all fairs will feel the cut in some way or another.  Some fairs don't even know what their premiums are going to be until they receive fair funding.  Larger counties, such as Clark, depend less on the fair fund and are likewise not going to be hit as hard.  On the other hand, 70.3% of Wahkiakum County's budget comes solely from the fair fund.  Without outside help, Wahkiakum would be unable to host a county fair.  A lot of these rural county fairs have a huge impact on their local communities. In an interview with Lori Tweit from Wahkiakum County, their local high school's Dollar for Scholar program relies on not only the county fair but the fairgrounds which they also fear to lose in the near future. In Skamania County, Sally Mansur, the Program Director, shared stories of family owned businesses that were able to put their kids through college, for example, by running an elephant ear booth. She also shared about out of town visitors bringing in business that would be lost and hurtful for their local economy.

    Small counties already rely on county commissioner grants, and fundraising on top of the fair funding they receive. Without the huge support of this funding many fairs would have trouble staying afloat. If nothing is done about this, the effects could be devastating. 4-Hers who know the true impacts of the fair are encouraged to email, call, and write their legislators. It is imperative to share 4-H fair stories and how a fair is one of the largest classrooms in Washington, 4-Hers and fair visitors need to share what they've learned, spread the word, and be the change that saves Washington State fairs. #tellyourfairstory #weare4H #waleg

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