LYNDEN - Moo-Wiches are great, but there's nothing quite like a wet alligator to cool you down on a hot day.
In the midday heat at the Northwest Washington Fair on Monday, Aug. 11, Dave Coleburn relished a soggy reptilian embrace as he showed off an alligator fresh from its cool, shaded tank at the Predators of the Heart show.
"He's all wet but he's really cold, so it feels nice," he told the packed crowd, which had gathered under the blazing sun on the fair's opening day to check out the new exhibit. Predators of the Heart is a Fidalgo Island-based animal refuge that puts on education programs and wildlife shows.
The fair exhibit, which is free with fair admission, is located just outside the kids' carnival, on the path to the Henry Jansen Agricultural Center.
The show features about 40 animals, from porcupines and pythons to a vulture and Arctic fox, each brought out briefly to the "oohs," "aaahs" and giddy squeals of the crowd before they're returned to their cool, shady enclosures. A cougar and three wolves share the stage with Coleburn and animal expert Ross Baker as they handle the animals, give interesting facts and bring kids up on stage to get kisses from lizards, pet the bellies of gators and feel the coils of snakes.
"Our whole goal is to get kids to fall back in love with nature," Coleburn said. "To see these animals close up is something they may never get to do in their lives."
Lynden resident Sharon Heeringa took in the show with her husband, Randy, and her grandson, Jake Lane, 3. She said she loves coming to the fair for the animals, the people and the food, as well as the chance to experience her grandson's excitement as he explores.
"The joy in him seeing it all, the laughter," she said, "it brings out the kid in us again, too."
Jake was really excited to see the alligators and loved the wolves and cougar.
Ronel Dreyer and her daughter, Nadine, 11, came down to the fair from Abbotsford, B.C. They had seen a Predators of the Heart exhibit before and knew they wanted to see it again.
"I loved it," Nadine said. "I love animals, especially wolves. They're my favorite."
Bellingham resident Brigit Crane said she was worried about how the animals would do in the heat, but Coleburn said they have fans and misters to keep the animals cool. Crane's grandson loves animals and wanted to see the show, and he wasn't disappointed.
"I think it's good they bring them up close. Kids need to see animals," Crane said. "This is our wildlife that we need to preserve."
IF YOU GO
The Northwest Washington Fair runs through Saturday, Aug. 16, at the Northwest Washington Fair and Event Center, 1775 Front St., Lynden.
Gates open 9 a.m. and close 10 p.m. Tickets at the gate are $12 adults, $10 seniors, $7 for youths 6 to 12, and free for children 5 and younger.
Carnival hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Rides are $3 and up, or $30 for all-day ride wristband.
For the entertainment lineups and more information, go to nwwafair.com.