Washington County Fair Wins Award

Release date: 01/16/2014
Sponsored by: County Administrative Office

Washington County Fair Wins Major Fair Industry Award for Exhibit


Award-winning-photo_David-Blair (Small)

The Western Fair Association's highest honor, the Merrill Award, has gone to the Washington County Fair for its "Growing Grove" exhibit. The award was announced last week at the WFA annual convention in Anaheim, California.

The Western Fair Association was founded in 1922 and is a non-profit trade association serving the fair industry throughout the Western United States and Canada. Its main objective is to help fairs prosper through educational activities, training programs, and legislative advocacy. The Merrill Award is named after WFA founder, Louis Merrill, and given to a fair project or program that demonstrates outstanding leadership and vision. The other 4 finalists competing for the award this year were the Calgary Stampede, the Washington State Fair, the Big Fresno Fair, and the Marin County Fair.  

The Growing Grove exhibit made its debut at the Washington County Fair in 2011, after the Fair Board adopted a mandate to have the Fair take an active role in the battle against childhood obesity. Fair Complex Manager Leah Perkins-Hagele moved forward to create an interactive exhibit for families to connect agriculture and childhood wellness. Elisa Hays of Let's Pretend Entertainment, a fair industry expert in interactive attractions and family entertainment, was brought in to design the look and layout of the exhibit. The Growing Grove quickly garnered support from the Oregon Dairy Products Commission, the Oregon Wheat Growers League, and the Washington County Farm Bureau. It features interactive areas like "The Kids Kitchen Corner" where Oregon State University Extension agents offer recipes and samples of healthy snacks for kids, all presented in a way that not only entertains but educates kids about nutrition.  

According to WFA Executive Director, Stephen Chambers, the Washington County Fair's Growing Grove exhibit is the classic example of what the Merrill Award is all about. "Louis Merrill always said the job of a fair is to unite the community to celebrate its success, and the Washington County Fair's Growing Grove is a classic example of community collaboration, taking an idea and then bringing in fair-industry partners and organizations like the Wheat Growers League and the local Farm Bureau, to help bring it to life. For me it was fun to sit in the audience as the finalists for the award gave their presentations and see a fair with an entry that was a perfect fit for Mr. Merrill's vision."  

"It's quite an honor to not only be the first Oregon fair to ever win this prestigious award, but to win it when we were up against such major competition," said Perkins-Hagele. "It sounds cliché, but we were truly excited to simply be chosen as one of the five finalists, and the other four fairs are organizations that we look up to and admire for what they do, so to win the award among entries submitted by fairs of this caliber is very exciting."  

The Washington County Fair was also very successful with its entries in the WFA's Achievement Awards Program, where it competes in the "Medium Fair" division, meaning fairs with an attendance of 50,000 to 150,000 people. The Washington County Fair won

  • 1st Place in the Radio Advertising Division for its "Big Fair Fun" radio commercial,
  • 1st Place with the Growing Grove in the "Anything Goes" Division that recognizes an outstanding program, remarkable promotion, or innovative idea,
  • 1st Place in the "Give It Your Best Shot" Division for a photograph taken by the Fair's official photographer, David Blair,
  • 2nd Place for the website www.BigFairFun.com in the Fair-Time Website Division, and
  • 3rd Place in the Viral or Video Documentation Division.  

The 2014 edition of the Washington County Fair will be held July 24-27 at the Washington County Fair Complex in Hillsboro.

Media Contact:

Leah Perkins-Hagele, Fair Complex Manager