Not everything at fair free, but some vendors make it easier on the wallet

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldAugust 22, 2012 

Matt Robinson has a valid reason for failing to win his pedal tractor pull Tuesday at the Benton Franklin Fair & Rodeo.

"I was jumping on a trampoline a couple weeks ago and twisted my ankle," explained the 10-year-old Richland competitor.

But there was plenty more for Matt and his brother Geoff, 11, and hundreds of other kids at the fair to do Tuesday, as well as today when children ages 6-12 get into the fair for just $2, because it's Little Buckaroos Day.

That includes the Kiddies Parade at 10 a.m. at the front gate.

Fair food, carnival rides and games all are popular but there's also free and low-cost fun at the fairgrounds.

"I understand they need to have paid stuff to get the fair up and going but it's good to have the free stuff," said Kennewick's Daria Chappel, leader of the Tumbleweeds 4-H Club.

She said she'll be spending much of her week at the fair helping the club and her two oldest sons with their rabbit and guinea pig entries.

She already expects her sons will spend some time in a tent filled with free games, puzzles and other activities operated by the Super Science Company. It gives the boys something to do during the day's lulls and a place for her to sit and relax, Chappel said.

"We call it sneaky learning," said Jess Wood, who supervises the tent. "Kids don't really know they're learning, but they are."

He said a lot of families visit the tent, but a number of 4-H students spend time there too. Parents consider it a safe place, he said, and it doesn't hurt that many of the activities involve physics and building.

Every day in the Kids' Zone, just south of the main stage area, there's a free animal petting zoo in Old McDonald's Barn, and kids can try their skill at riding a lamb in the mutton bustin' area.

It also is free to wander through the animal barns and buildings with crafts, photos and other displays.

Many vendors and agencies in the commercial buildings are giving out free items, such as the punching balloons being given by volunteers with Kennewick General Hospital.

The pedal tractor pulling contests are also offered every day in the Kids' Zone.

Matt's mother, Teresa Robinson, said she and her sons saw it a few years ago when they last visited the fair but weren't able to participate. They made sure they tried it this year.

Along with Matt and Geoff, Robinson also brought three of their friends.

All-day carnival ride wristbands are $30 in addition to fair admission. The carnival is open until 11 p.m. today.

"My mom hasn't let us go on the slide (in the carnival) yet and I think that'll be the best part," Matt said.

And some of those rides are a big reason kids want to come to the fair to begin with. Seven-year-old Francis Bond of Kennewick, for example, was pretty adamant about playing in one of the inflatable Poseidon Bubbles floating in a pool of water near the Kids' Zone.

"I asked if they could keep her in there for five hours but they said they couldn't," her father Kevin Bond said with a laugh.

After she finished, Francis said there were a lot of things she liked about the fair, from the giant corndogs to seeing all the animals in the 4-H barns. But she also looks forward to the end of her annual visit.

"We get to go home," she said.

-- Ty Beaver: 582-1402;

Editor's note: Online story corrected at 10:46 a.m. 8/22/12 to say balloons handed out by Kennewick General Hospital.

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