Year after year, the Grays Harbor County Fair brings in amazing entertainment from around the country. In our wet and wooded corner of Washington State, some of the biggest names in music have played the stage at the fairgrounds, bringing incredible memories to all in attendance. From country music stars to favorite local artists and everyone in between, the entertainers who have delighted audiences at the fair bring their soulful sounds to the ears of our friends and neighbors. Like the forests that made Grays Harbor famous around the world, the entertainment industry has its roots firmly planted in the souls of the region.
The year of 1994 was huge for those who attended the Grays Harbor County Fair. In a year that saw the death of Kurt Cobain, arguably one of the county’s largest stars, the fair was struggling to find an act to headline the event. Around the first of June, just a handful of weeks from opening day, Grays Harbor Fair Events Coordinator Rod Easton was approached by a booker with a new act. This newcomer to the music world, having just finished his second album, had a number one song, “Don’t Take the Girl,” on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs Chart. The artist was none other than the three-time Grammy winner, Tim McGraw. During the show, McGraw delighted and dazzled the crowd in Elma, showing himself to be a true musician and fantastic live performer. By year’s end, McGraw would be named one of the hottest singers in the country, winning the Album of the Year at the Academy of Country Music Awards.
Tim McGraw might be the biggest named artist today that performed on the stage at the Grays Harbor County Fairgrounds, but the small venue has seen its fair share of amazing performers. In 1983, Johnny Cash performed not one, but two shows at the fair with June Carter and family. This was a tumultuous time for Cash, as he was deeply addicted to drugs that year and was fresh out of the Betty Ford Clinic in Rancho Mirage for treatment. Despite the problems in his personal life, the performances he gave at the Grays Harbor Fair that year were incredible; his rich, soulful voice captivating the sold out crowds that came to see him play.
A few years back, another well-known name in music performed onstage in Elma, delighting the crowd with his Southern rock, country and bluegrass music. Best known for the hit song, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” the Charlie Daniels Band had the place rocking before an accident stopped the show entirely. As Daniels started the last song, the aforementioned hit about the Devil, a car struck a telephone pole near the fairgrounds, knocking out power to the show. The concert abruptly ended, and in true Grays Harbor fashion, the crowd cheered and applauded, giving thanks to the performer and his band for a great night of music. While they didn’t hear the hit song, they still were given quite a performance.
The stage at the Grays Harbor Fairgrounds isn’t huge, and that is a good thing. For decades, those in attendance have been able to see popular performers without the feeling of claustrophobia. Seating roughly 2,500 people, the open air venue is cozy and inviting, letting you get close to the bands performing without feeling lost in a giant stadium. Don’t worry about the weather being a factor either. Rarely does rain fall during a show, and when it does, our Grays Harbor grit becomes readily apparent. Years ago, JP Patches and Gertrude, Seattle’s most-famous clowns, were performing. As they were on stage doing their act, it started pouring rain, which lasted for over an hour. Despite the dampness, no one in the audience left, no umbrellas were seen and the act continued without a hitch.
There are so many years of amazing acts that have played at the Grays Harbor County Fair that it is impossible to list them all. The past decades have brought in some of the world’s biggest bands and the future looks just as bright. With a finger on the pulse of the musical tastes of Grays Harbor, you can be sure that the coming years will see future stars and classic artists.
This year, the fair is yet again bringing in stellar talent to the intimate venue. The popular and incredible vocalist Randy Houser is playing on Wednesday, August 7, singing songs from his new album Magnolia. On Thursday, country legend Lorrie Morgan will be performing her huge library of songs, possibly performing all 11 of her Billboard’s Hot County Songs Chart Top 10 hits.
Local rock/country favorite Humptulips, who has been performing at the fair for over half a decade will be rocking the crowd on Friday, August 9, before turning over the stage on Saturday to the original Eagles tribute act, Hotel California, who have been rocking the hits for over three decades.
The Grays Harbor Fair has around 80-100 volunteers each year, but are always looking for more. To sign up, give the fairgrounds a call at 360.482.2651 and let them know you’d like to help. What makes volunteering so great is that when you do help out, get a pass to the fairgrounds and can even pick where you’d like to help out.