In 262 days, despite winter challenges, fair building was completed

LYNDEN ­— Phase one completed, despite doubts and thanks to many, and now on to phase two.

That was the theme as a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds’ new Farm Pavilion building Thursday, attended by dozens.

“Is it really going to happen?” was the question 262 days earlier as old buildings were demolished, acknowledged Nate Kleindel, president of the fair board of directors. Yet it was “amazing to watch” this showcase for agriculture take shape through community support and determination, he said.

Mark Passe, of builder Exxel Pacific Inc., told of having only six days for crews to work in a wintry and windy February. They caught up, however, and a final inspection by the city happened just on July 16, he said.

Lisa DeVetter, a horticulturist with Washington State University, said she is eager to be part of a berry research team that is expected to be based in the northeast corner of the 20,000-square-foot building.

The central area of three sections will contain the Farming For Life Experience, an exhibit telling of multi-generation farming in Whatcom County as well as showing just how food gets from field to table. It can be “a mecca for future farmers” as well as a regional draw about the process of food production, said designer David Lackey, of New York City.

“We want to tell the story of where food comes from. We go to the grocery and don’t connect to what it takes,” said local grower Brad Rader.

But it means another $3 million needs to be raised for full completion — hoped for by a year from now, said Ed Roddy, president of the support Fair Foundation board. About $4.6 million has come in so far for the whole project.

Marv Tjoelker, ex-fair board member, said that for all of its 100-plus years Northwest Washington Fair leaders have dreamed of successive projects to be done to build up the grounds with what it needs, and each time the community has come together to accomplish it.

Fair manager Jim Baron capped off the program by saying that sometimes he had his doubts about pulling this building off too, but now the place for various uses is in place, and the interior will be used already this 2019 fair for some departments.