Don Ballard, the 2019 Evergreen Fair Honoree, talks about a fair logo cross-stitch piece he made at his home on Thursday, March 21, 2019 in Everett, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Don Ballard, the 2019 Evergreen Fair Honoree, talks about a fair logo cross-stitch piece he made at his home on Thursday, March 21, 2019 in Everett, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

He found family — and 100 rabbits — through the Evergreen Fair

Don Ballard, who has volunteered at the event for about 30 years, was named this year’s Fair Honoree.

EVERETT — Don Ballard can’t say no when it comes to the Evergreen State Fair.

When the rabbit 4-H program needed a superintendent to manage entries, Ballard never said yes to the opportunity.

But he didn’t say no.

He’s now held the position for 21 years, and he doesn’t plan to give it up anytime soon.

“I just have too much fun,” he said.

Ballard is this year’s Fair Honoree.

His 33-year connection to the event began with a bunny. Then 20 bunnies. Then 50.

When his son was in first grade, Ballard and his wife, Terri, took him to the fair. He spent nearly the whole trip with the rabbits in the petting zoo.

Don Ballard shows a crocheted doily that he made for the fair that was featured in The Daily Herald at his home on Thursday, March 21, 2019 in Everett, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Don Ballard shows a crocheted doily that he made for the fair that was featured in The Daily Herald at his home on Thursday, March 21, 2019 in Everett, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Using the excuse they couldn’t have bunnies in their suburban Everett neighborhood, Ballard squelched his son’s requests for a hopper of his own for about a year. Then the boy discovered their next door neighbor had some.

The Ballards had their own rabbit within a month.

“I lost that argument,” Don Ballard said, chuckling.

His daughter soon joined in the craze, and the two got involved in 4-H. During peak breeding season in the spring, Ballard said they had up to 100 bunnies in a shed he specially build in the backyard. They had to get a livestock permit.

That’s when Ballard decided to get involved himself.

“If I had to take the kids to rabbit shows, I might as well have something to show as well,” he said.

He settled on Flemmish Giants. The puppy-sized thumpers can reach 24 pounds and love to cuddle, he said.

Ballard’s fair involvement didn’t end with bunnies. He’s also a blue-ribbon winner in many display exhibits, including cross stitch, crochet and canning.

Don Ballard shows a crocheted doily that he made for the fair that was featured in The Daily Herald at his home on Thursday, March 21, 2019 in Everett, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Don Ballard shows a crocheted doily that he made for the fair that was featured in The Daily Herald at his home on Thursday, March 21, 2019 in Everett, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

He learned to crochet from his aunt when he was 5, and to knit from his mother the next year.

A retired Boeing engineer, Ballard used the hobby to relax at the end of a long day.

“It kept my hands and my mind going while I calmed down,” he said.

The evidence is everywhere in the family’s home. Award-winning needle artwork is displayed on the walls, and hundreds of “de-stressing” doilies fill bags and boxes.

About 15 years ago, a position opened up on the fair board.

Once again, Ballard didn’t say no.

This is his first year off the board after hitting term limits. He said he’s not against running again in the future.

Ballard’s wife has been right there along with him. She’s entered needle works in the fair as well, and helped out with the rabbit 4-H contests.

Long after their kids — now in their 30s — stopped competing in the fair, the Ballards said the people keep them coming back.

“It’s a fair family,” Don Ballard said. “Every year, it’s like a big family reunion.”

Julia-Grace Sanders: 425-339-3439; jgsanders@heraldnet.com.

The fair

The Evergreen State Fair runs Aug. 22 through Sept. 2 this year in Monroe.

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