Two decades ago, former Northwest Washington Fair manager Jim Baron took a short walk to the bank across the street from his Lynden fairgrounds office. He wanted the bank – now known as Bank of the Pacific – to consider sponsorship of the Fair’s grandstand, which hosts an assortment of entertainment ranging from national touring artists to demolition derbies each year.
“He felt that sponsorship could be really great for our entire community,” says Karen Kildall Occhiogrosso, the fair’s Director of Sponsorship. “We want a really respected community member to be the sponsor of that stage. Knowing how well-respected Bank of the Pacific is, it made it an easy choice for us.”
Twenty years later, Bank of the Pacific’s name still hangs above the grandstand stage for every part of the fair’s grandstand entertainment series, and is a proud partnership for both entities during the iconic Whatcom County event.
“It was such a perfect match,” says Suzy Funk, Bank of the Pacific’s marketing coordinator. “Our sponsorship is so important to show the community that we are involved in a variety of different ways. It’s so important to be aligned with the fair.”
A Rich History of the Northwest Washington Fair
During Bank of the Pacific’s sponsorship, the list of artists who’ve graced the grandstand stage is a who’s who of country, rock, and Christian music.
In the former category, crowds have been treated to Brad Paisley, Trace Adkins, Merle Haggard, Little Big Town, Clint Black, the Charlie Daniels Band, Old Dominion and the Oak Ridge Boys, to name but a few.
Rock acts have included Cheap Trick, Pat Benatar, Heart, Styx, Ted Nugent, Huey Lewis, Foreigner, Rick Springfield, and REO Speedwagon, among others. Christian artists like The Newsboys and Jars of Clay have drawn plenty of folks, while comedians Weird Al Yankovic, Gabriel Iglesias and Jeff Foxworthy have also brought laughs to Lynden.
These acts have built upon a truly legendary concert history at the fair, which includes the likes of Loretta Lynn and Johnny Cash. Lynn, who was once a local fair exhibitor before shooting to country music fame, may have set the all-time attendance record for a concert at the fair.
“Thousands and thousands and thousands of people packed into the grandstand area,” says Kildall Occhiogrosso. “It was crazy.”
The fair attempted to get Lynn back in 2010, but health issues forced her to cancel.
In 1997, one of the fair’s most unexpected events occurred when Trisha Yearwood welcomed Garth Brooks on stage as her duet guest. The appearance, just days after Brooks played New York City’s Central Park at arguably the height of his fame, made national headlines.
“Our manager at that time got a call from his agent,” Kildall Occhiogrosso says. “It was very hush-hush. He just popped in and the grandstand erupted.”
For Bank of the Pacific employees, Funk says phones begin ringing at the beginning of the year, with people wanting to know who will be headlining the fair’s grandstand shows. Those in the know, however, are sworn to secrecy until the lineups have been publicly announced by the fair.
2023 Northwest Fair Events
This year, the Lynden Fair runs August 10 through 19, and features live music from .38 Special, the Selena Experience, NEEDTOBREATHE, Chase Rice, Ne-Yo, and Russell Dickerson.
In addition, the grandstand will once again host both the PRCA Rodeo and the always-popular Demolition Derby, which never fails to sell every ticket.
“In my 15-year tenure, there’s never been a day that hasn’t completely sold out,” says Kildall Occhiogrosso.
Monday, August 14 will also be Bank of the Pacific Day at the fair, where the bank’s logos will grace signage, programs and public address announcements. This is also a day where first responders receive free admission to the fair.
Carley Wilson, brand manager for Bank of the Pacific’s Lynden branch near the fairgrounds, says the fair is an especially fun time for bank employees.
“The buzz for the week and a half of the fair is felt all day long, the nine hours that we’re here,” she says. “It’s really an exciting time.”
The bank also acknowledges the role of dairy farming, not just at the fair, but in the community: a recent Lynden Tribune ad by the bank featured employees with milk moustaches, and many fairgoers love getting ice cream sandwiches – better known as “moo-wiches” – from the Whatcom County Dairy Women.
“They’re a big part of our banking,” Wilson says of dairy and other agricultural industries.
And before you know, the fair itself will be here. It is not just about petting animals or seeing a concert, but about the power of good experiences and people coming together.
“The fair happens to be located in Lynden, but it certainly belongs to our entire community,” says Kildall Occhiogrosso.