Attending Benton Franklin Fair & Rodeo is fun, helps whole community

If summer in the Tri-Cities was a good book, it would be the kind with two high points.

There's the exciting middle climax with the Tri-City Water Follies, but then, just before the end, comes one more exciting turn of events to close the story with some intensity.

That final moment is, of course, the Benton Franklin Fair & Rodeo. It always comes just as summer break is winding down for families and gives Tri-Citians one last fun-filled activity before school starts.

The fair opens Tuesday and runs to Saturday night. It is sure to be as great as always, with a seemingly endless number of exhibits, fantastic entertainment, impressive animals and thrilling carnival rides.

However, one of the most important things about the fair, besides the fun it provides, is what it does for the community even after the gates are closed and the smell of grease and caramel corn have left the air.

Fair officials work very hard to help support a number of good causes in the Tri-Cities. Service groups and churches hired to work at the fair earn thousands of dollars for their organizations. Students in 4-H and Future Farmers of America have the chance to raise their animals and then sell them for a profit at the Market Stock Auction. Many of these kids end up using the money they earned at the fair for college later.

The fair also donates thousands of dollars to a variety of worthwhile causes, with a special emphasis on helping uninsured women in the community to receive free mammograms. In the past six years, at least $100,000 has been donated for those life-saving tests.

These are just few of the many ways the fair helps the Tri-Cities. It is an event that provides a whole lot more than just a good time -- it supports community programs as well.

The kick-off for the fair begins this weekend with the annual 5K Rodeo Run starting at 8 a.m. Saturday on Clover Island. Then, not long after the last runner crosses the finish line, it's time for the Grand Parade in downtown Kennewick.

The parade starts at 10 a.m. Saturday and begins at First Avenue and Dayton Street. It then loops down to Fruitland Street, turns at Kennewick Avenue and then heads south on Auburn Street. It's an entertaining way to spend a couple of hours, but be prepared. Bring water and sunscreen and make sure to get there early enough to stake out a place on the curb.

On Tuesday, fair gates open at 9 a.m. The fair is one of the most enjoyable weeks in the Tri-Cities and has something for everyone, so don't miss it.