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Shake-up on Yakima Valley Fair board

GRANDVIEW - Less than two weeks before the Yakima Valley Fair and Rodeo begins the board that oversees the fair has had a shake-up.

Earlier this month the fair board voted out its president, Judi Smasne.

As president of the fair board, Smasne is concerned that the firing may not have been legitimate as she says the board fired her without her being there as the presiding officer.

The board is saying little to clear the air about the action.

"There is reasoning but at this time we'd rather not let that out," said board member Willard Mears. "There is the possibility that attorneys are going to be involved."

For her part, Smasne said she has informed her lawyer of inconsistencies that she sees on the fair board. She says she is not pursuing litigation against the board.

Smasne says one of the reasons she was let go as president is because some alleged that she violated fair board bylaws. She says that may be true, but she was only following the actions of previous presidents. One example, she said, is how board officers are selected.

Smasne, who still sits on the board and handles public relations for the fair, says she was also voted out of office as president because she was advocating changes to help keep the fair viable.

Smasne alleges that the rodeo lost $3,000 last year and that one of her suggested changes that got her in hot water was the idea of perhaps replacing the rodeo with a junior or high school rodeo.

Sharon Fisher was on the fair board for nine years and she stepped down this past March to focus on her responsibilities with the rodeo.

Though admitting that rodeo receipts have had ups and downs, she says there's no way the rodeo lost $3,000 last year. She also praised the sponsors who help keep the rodeo going.

Fisher also disputes Smasne's view that the rodeo is drawing only about 500 paid admissions each night, noting that the grandstands were full both nights of last year's rodeo. The grandstand has a capacity of about 1,200 people, said Fisher.

Fisher added that the problem with a junior or high school rodeo is that there would be no ticket sales.

Board member quits

over 'double standard'

The board took another hit this past Thursday when board member Dan Atha abruptly resigned his post.

Atha, who helped organize the entertainment and vendors for this year's fair, said the board's actions are a classic case of "too many chiefs and not enough indians."

Atha said he resigned because of a "double standard" that exists on the fair board and at Grandview city hall.

As a case in point, he said as a way to encourage vendors to sign-up he instituted a "first-come, first-served" policy for booth space.

"A lot of vendors were not going to come back because there was no foot traffic," he said.

The policy came under fire, Atha says, because a corn roaster vendor was signed up before the Grandview Rotary Club could sign up for its traditional corn roaster booth. The fair has a policy of no duplication of vendor products.

"Now I'm being bad-mouthed because first come, first served," he said. "There's a double standard here and I don't like it and it's not right. If you're going to do things, you have to do them ethically."

The Rotary Club will again have its roasted corn booth, as it has been doing for 40 years, says Cus Arteaga, Grandview's public works director and a member of the Rotary Club.

"That was a bad political move," Arteaga says of Atha's decision to initially sign up another roasted corn vendor. "A courtesy call to Rotary would have been good. He overextended himself."

Rotary, which donates its proceeds from the corn sales to local needs, such as scholarships, is a "core" group, Arteaga says, that is a long-time participant in the fair.

Another point of contention, Atha said, is the lack of sufficient wiring so that vendor booths can be moved closer to the fair entrance. Atha said the board gave a thumbs up to amp up the wiring for the George Young Building, but then the process got caught up in a run-around between the board and the city.

The George Young Building is owned by the city and Arteaga says Atha approached him about wiring the building to accommodate vendors closer to the front gate. The problem, Arteaga says, is that the fair board didn't have the money to pay for it and its president never issued a letter authorizing the wiring.

As a result, the wiring went undone.

It's probably for the best, says Arteaga, since the city has plans to install playground equipment in the area Atha had sought for vendor booths.

Looking ahead

Despite the drama of recent weeks, the Yakima Valley Fair and Rodeo board members and volunteers are looking ahead to the event, which kicks off next Wednesday, Aug. 5.

As part of the fresh start the fair board has installed a new interim president, Kim Gonzalez.

Now, Fisher says, it's time to accentuate the positive.

"We have a rodeo and fair to put on and we're working hard to make it a good event," she said. "It's time to get rid of the negative thoughts and bring in the positives."

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