Foundation members do it all for community

From left clockwise, members who attended the Yakima Valley Fair and Rodeo Foundation Board meeting last week were Martina Charvet, Elizabeth Osborn, Barbara Merz, Amariah Osborn, Willard Mears, Cathy Mears, JoAnne Vining and Jake VanPelt.

Photo by Ted Escobar
From left clockwise, members who attended the Yakima Valley Fair and Rodeo Foundation Board meeting last week were Martina Charvet, Elizabeth Osborn, Barbara Merz, Amariah Osborn, Willard Mears, Cathy Mears, JoAnne Vining and Jake VanPelt.



Members of the Yakima Valley Fair and Rodeo Foundation Board took a little time recently to reflect on why they do what they do.

What the foundation board members do is work all year to raise money to support the fair. And if they need to pound a nail at the fairgrounds, they’ll do that too.

One of the reasons for the formation of foundation was the loss of funding from the state fair commission. This fair used to get as much as $25,000 from that source. Now, $8,000 is big, and the amount is usually around $5,000.

If you could nail down, in one word, why people volunteer for this board, it must be Americana. These people simply don’t want ever to not have a Yakima Valley Fair.

Cricket VanPelt was fortunate to show animals and participate at the fair during her youth. Her kids were able to show their 4-H animals at the fair.

“Our family has made memories and formed lasting friendships through the Grandview Fair,” she said. “I want that small piece of America to continue for generations to come. Our children need those values in their lives.”

Treasurer JoAnne Vining has been a member of the Foundation Board since 2010. She remembers going to the fair as a child and young adult and enjoying all the food and excitement.

“My brother entered his pigs, and I watched him get ready for that adventure,” Vining said. It was a big deal in our household to go to the fair and the highlight of the year.”

Vining has been a “barn sit” at the fair. In other words, a security person.

One of the advantages of that is visiting and talking with other barn sits about the fair and how to make it even better.

As treasurer, Vining’s main concern is to keep the foundation’s bank account on the upswing.

She reminds everyone that the biggest fundraiser of the year, the annual fall dinner is in November.

One reason she reminds you now is so you can buy dinner tickets at the fair for $40. Otherwise, they will cost $50.

Willard Mears is the old guy in this crowd. He’s been affiliated with fair for 69 years.

Willard was a visitor first, then an exhibitor in the horticulture competition. He was the horticulture superintendent and then joined the fair board.

One year, Keith Jones bought materials for a new building. Jones and Mears spent that summer putting it up. It is the Jones Building, which hosts horticulture.

Mears said he does this work to assure Lower Valley kids there will always be this piece of Americana.

Mears and his wife Cathy met at the fair. They haven’t missed a fair since. Their children haven’t missed a fair, and now their grandchildren attend.

“I believe the week each year in August spent at the Yakima Valley Fair and Rodeo is like a family reunion,” Cathy Mears said.

“Hundreds of people have been affected by this little fair in Grandview,” she added. “They do not forget it.”



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