LYNDEN - Visitors at this year's Northwest Washington Fair will be able to grab a beer between rides as a new restaurant at the fairgrounds will offer alcohol service.
The Mt. Baker Rotary Building will be turned into a sit-down restaurant called The Blue Ribbon Bistro for the fair. The bistro will serve beer, wine and spirits, in addition to wraps, salads, fish tacos and other dishes.
Fair manager Jim Baron said he believes this is the first time the fair has offered alcohol.
The bistro will be run by The Reserve restaurant of the Homestead Golf and Country Club of Lynden. Restaurant owner Cody Hurlburt said he's excited to take part.
"I thought it was such a great idea," he said. "A lot of families, you spend all day at the fair, and it's nice to be able to sit down for a little bit, especially in the air conditioning, be able to have something to eat and then go back out there."
While offering alcohol is a big change for the fair, private events at the Rotary building have allowed alcohol before. Baron said it shouldn't affect any other areas of the fairgrounds, and people won't be able to leave the restaurant with their drinks.
Another new offering at this year's fair will be the Front and Center program, in which fairgoers can purchase premium seats for all four grandstand concerts and receive VIP access and parking.
Front and Center ticket holders will have access to an entertainment area behind the stage where alcohol and other drinks are served. Tickets are $320 each and are sold in sets of two, according to nwwafair.com.
"It's quite a bit different than a beer garden or some events where people can go buy a beer and wander the streets or wander the midway. That's not going to be what happens here," Baron said. "The fair has a family atmosphere, and we are very much interested in protecting that and preserving that. The last thing we want to do is create an environment that is not family friendly."
For Hurlburt and his family, going to the fair is an annual tradition. While he's excited to be a part of it, he's also nervous about all the unknowns: working in a smaller kitchen, not knowing how many people will show up and how much food to prepare. But the feeling he has is still overwhelmingly positive.
"It's a big deal for us," he said. "It feels good. I'm just worried about how I'm going to balance my time between going on rides with my kids and running the restaurant."
Reach ZOE FRALEY at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 756-2803.