While the Whidbey Island Fair, held this year from July 27-30, is the culmination of dozens of 4-H projects, members of two of its horse clubs have visited the fairground since spring, practicing for the fair’s showmanship trials.

This year, noticing that the three horse barns were in extreme disrepair, members of the Knight Riders and Centaurs equestrian clubs decided to repair and clean up the buildings as a community service project.

Rotting roof support beams in one of the 4-H horse barns are repaired, thanks to a community service project with a pair of horse clubs–the Knight Riders and the Centaurs. A 4-H dad, Ben Criswell, is president of Eagle Building Company and brought in his crew to restore the horse barns to safety. Photo shared by Ben Criswell

Kim Olmstead, a 4-H leader for the past 35 years, heads the Knight Riders Club. While meeting at the fairgrounds earlier this year, she and other 4-H leaders noticed the barns’ disrepair.

“We all were very worried about the dangerous conditions of the barns,” Olmstead wrote in a text message. “Its been a huge safety issue, not only for the horses, but the 4-H kids, and the public that walks through to see the horses, including women and children in strollers.”

Wanting to do something about the barns’ poor condition, the equestrian clubs reached out to the community for help. Club co-leader Carissa Moore was instrumental in working with the Port of South Whidbey to ensure that permission was secured to work on the barns. The Port has taken over management of the fairgrounds since 2016.

“We received donations of material and labor, and volunteers to help us get as much repairs done as possible before the fair,” Olmstead added. “Were all so grateful for everyone thats stepped up to help us!”

In addition, 4-H horse club members mucked the stalls, cleaned up trash and rolled a magnetic roller through the stalls, which picked up nails, including rusted farrier’s nails used for shoeing horses.

One of the 4-H dads, Ben Criswell, president of Eagle Building Company, volunteered 10 carpenters for 8 hours during the work day, and much of the building material to make the required structural repairs.

Rotting horse barn wood siding at Whidbey Island Fairgrounds & Events Center before its repair by Island County 4-H horse club members of Knight Riders and Centaurs. Eagle Building Company stepped in to make repairs. Photo shared by Ben Criswell, president of Eagle Building Co.

“The condition of the barns were discouraging, so we stepped in and wanted to help,” Criswell said during a recent visit at the 4-H horse barns, whose white stalls showed peeling paint. He pointed to the rafters inside one of the barns, where new wood beams were installed.

“We wanted to step in because of life safety concerns,” Criswell added. “Barn 3 was in the worst repair, and looked as if it could collapse under a snowfall. From our perspective, we wanted structural safety issues dealt with. We installed collar ties (which anchor rafters in a gabled roof), did roof repairs, pressure washing, and replaced all of the four end walls of the barn.”

Crew from Eagle Building Company and members of the Knight Riders and Centaurs Horse clubs, affiliated with Island County 4-H Clubs, repair horse barns, which had fallen into decrepitude. Photo shared by Ben Criswell, president of Eagle Building Company

Additionally, Criswell’s team noticed the barns’ wiring to be faulty and contacted Whidbey Island Electric, which did a pro bono inspection of the barns’ outlets. They found four of the outdoor outlets to be dysfunctional, and a junction box that was rusted and failed to work. The electric contractor will make repairs prior to the fair’s opening.

“Chad Saxton, president of Whidbey Island Electric mobilized his company within two hours of my call to do the inspection and make the repairs,” Chriswell wrote in an email.

The Knight Riders and the Centaurs will host a ‘Paint the Barn Day’ July 8. The public is welcome to join in the community effort. Hanson’s Building & Supply, Sebo’s Do-It Center, and Frontier Building Supply donated materials for the barns’ repair and upgrade.

“I want to give credit to the kids,” Criswell said. “For our company, we love to support and stand with organizations like 4-H.”

It took a village of folks to restore the 4-H horse barns at the Whidbey Island Fairgrounds & Events Center. Here, thanks to the community service by 4-H horse clubs Knight Riders and Centaurs, who worked with the help of professionals from Eagle Building Company to repair and restore the barns, the horse barns are restored and made attractive. Photo by David Welton

Horsemanship has played a big role in Whidbey Island’s 4-H history.

Criswell said his wife Fallon was in 4-H as a kid here in Langley and is actively involved now. Many of the 4-H leaders have served for 20 or more years.

“The essential life lessons were passed on to and instilled in our daughter through the very same programs,” Criswell said. “Island County 4-H is excited to partner with the Port of South Whidbey (which has owned the fairgrounds since 2016) to continue these repairs and ensure that the fairgrounds are safe, well maintained, and beautiful for generations to come.”

Riders in action performing in 4-H Horse Showmanship competitions at Whidbey Island Fair. Photo taken in 2022 by David Welton

This year’s Whidbey Island Fair Guide, which can be viewed online, lists this year’s equestrian events:

  • July 14 is deadline for all 4H animal entries. All animal exhibitors enter Showmanship
  • Horsemanship age group—PeeWee, ages 4-7; Youth, ages 8-15; Adult, ages 16+
  • A fair vet inspects all fair animals July 25 and 26 for contagious or infectious disease, prior to their checking in to a stall.
  • Events include: In-hand trail course; Costume Class; Polo Turn; Half 8; Keg, Stake, Stilly Figure 8. Horse Showmanship, Performance Horse and Western Games.

Other 4-H events this year include:

Family Living

  • Foods and nutrition—entries include preserves and jams, baked goods, candies, recipes modified for allergies such as gluten intolerance; nutritious snacks; 3-day menu plans; food gift basket; table setting
  • Clothing—includes pillowcases and kites; costumes, pajamas, tops, pants, skirts, dresses
  • Needlework-includes crocheted and knitted items, hand and machine-stitched quilts, needlepoint and other handwork

Expressive Arts & Mechanical Science

  • Fine arts-drawing, painting, photography, videography, photojournalism
  • Writing-poetry, fiction and nonfiction
  • Mechanical sciences-rocketry, small engines, bicycles, electricity, wood science, wood art, computers, geospatial science, robotics and welding

Plant Sciences & Environmental

  • Plants-homegrown vegetables, fruits, nuts, berries and herbs
  • Landscape-cutting garden flowers, container plants
  • Food Sculptures
  • Garden journals
  • Etymology-Insect collections, safe chemical control of insects, safe biological control of insects, bees, honey that is home harvested
  • Environmental-weather, climate, astronomy, wildlife, geology, marine resources
  • Science/Engineering/Technology-rockets, bicycles, small engines, welding, woodworking, computer technology, computer tool kits, digital art, robotics, STEM project, Lego creations

Social Sciences & Educational Displays

  • Citizenship
  • Service Learning/Community Service
  • Intercultural
  • Health
  • Leadership
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Social Science group projects
  • Best management practices and displays-mud, pasture, manure, stream and wetlands, biosecurity

4H Contests

  • Club Herdsmanship-horses, sheep, goats, pigs, cattle, dogs, cats, poultry, rabbits, guinea pigs
  • Judging-cat, cavy, dairy, dog, goat, horse, livestock, poultry, rabbit, sheep
  • Performing Arts-piano, vocal, instrumental solo. Ensemble performance. Reading, monologue, skit. Dance. Clown
  • On the spot construction
  • Most beautiful animal
  • Parade of champions-for grand champions and Best of Show winners
  • Livestock auction
4H teen feeds a piglet at the Whidbey Island Fair. Photo taken in 2022 by David Welton

Animal Science

  • Horse Showmanship-walk/trot, driving, Western games
  • Performance Horse-bareback, saddle seat, hunt seat, dressage, obstacles, reining, colts, Western Games-pole bending, Idaho Figure 8, pole key, two barrel flag, speed barrels, international flag, Texas barrel race
  • Beef cattle
  • Dairy cattle
  • Sheep-meat, dairy, fleece
  • Pigs
  • Goats-pack, fiber, pygmy, meat
  • Poultry-chicken, duck, goose, turkey, eggs, livestock auction
  • Rabbits-showmanship of various breeds, fleece
  • Cavies
  • Cats
  • Dogs
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