By Jana Mathia
Gazette Editor 

2020 Palouse Empire Fair canceled


Whitman County Commissioners have voted to follow Fair Board recommendation to cancel the Palouse Empire Fair this year.

"This is no one's choice," said Commission Chair Michael Largent during discussion. "I don't like this; I don't like this vote, I don't like the position the state has put us in."

The fair board presented the recommendation based on a 8-3 vote. The fair board was tasked with presenting the commissioners a plan to host a fair given Phase III restrictions after a decision was delayed last month.

"This was a hard, hard task," said Largent.

A fair board sub-committee worked "tirelessly" to put together a plan that fair board member Nathan Moore hoped would "knock the commissioners' socks off." However, the committee struggled due to a lack of clear guidance and direction from the state.

Issues the committee ran up against with a Phase III fair–which restricts gatherings to 50 people or less–were public health concerns and the budget. It was unclear whether the 50-person limit meant on the entire fairground or per building.

During discussion, Moore presented a "big ask" for the commissioners to hold off on a decision for two more weeks, citing a task force which had recently been set up by Alex McGregor. The task force's purpose is to develop guidelines for fairs to be open during reopening restrictions. It is set to meet June 18.

Largent pointed out the ultimate guidance comes from the governor's office, despite what the task force may do and doubted the governor's office would have any direction on fairs in two weeks.

WSU Extension Director Janet Schmidt added 4H has been directed by its state officials not to meet until in Phase IV. It was expressed during the meeting that it is "unlikely" the county will be in Phase IV by fair time. Fair Board Chairman Sid Mays said that under Phase III guidelines, most people on the board did not see how it would work to have a fair.

Mays added the stock sale was discussed and they had buyers for turn animals, admitting the kids would not make as much money, but the youth may be able to receive booster support.

In reply to public comments shared through the Zoom meeting's chat feature, Largent said it was unfair to suggest board members did not support kids because they had to face reality.

"All of us wouldn't do this if we didn't care about the kids," he said.

Public comments expressed disappointment after the vote to cancel passed unanimously. The public also expressed appreciation for everyone's hard work in getting to that point.

After the vote Largent stated this does not preclude family and community support for youth projects. He expected next year's fair to be bigger and better, adding "this is not the end of our fair by any means."


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