KeyFest kicked off to a simmering start in the summer heat


Karen Lovett, KP News

Enthusiastic drummers try out their rhythmic talent on Cuban congas and African hand drums in the Rhythm of Life booth. Photo by Karen Lovett, KP News


A single electrical pole and minimal water sources for animals and food booths posed difficult problems with temperatures soaring in the mid-90s for year 13 of the local fair.

This was Brandy Ellzey’s first year as president of the annual event, which was hosted at Gateway Park for the second time.

According to Ellzey, the cost to run the event at Gateway Park was driven up by the need to rent generators and pay for the carnival.

The decision to spend $20,000 and hold it at the large park was made to allow the carnival rides to be part of the fair. Ellzey said public feedback warranted that choice since Volunteer Park is too small to house the rides. The $1,000 cost to hold the fair there was outweighed by the desire to please fairgoers. The last year KeyFest was at Volunteer Park, only 500 people attended. More people attended this year than ever before.

The layout was completely changed from last year.

“Entertainers were brought in from Tacoma, Port Orchard and Gig Harbor as well as from the Key Peninsula,” Ellzey said.

Clowns from Caring Clowns International roamed the grounds. Clown Beverly Morrow said, “We collect financial donations for kids with problems.”

“This was the best organized fair that they produced,” Key Peninsula Community Council President Danna Webster said. “They thought of every detail and were ahead of problems before they began. A wonderful opportunity, this nonprofit booth they set up for us.”

The large, four-table booth centered near the KeyFest information booth and the entrance housed the nonprofits: Peninsula School District, Citizens Against Crime, Key Peninsula Community Council and the Key Peninsula Business Association.

KP Council District 2 director Audra Garcia assisted with Kid Zone.

The Kid Zone included water boat and other children’s games, marble art, and the duck pond. They had 28 youth assistants during the three days who did whatever they were needed to do to help with garbage collection, babysitting, set-up and breakdown of the nonprofit booth.

“We loved the fair. This was the best one. I saw my favorite donkey, the spotted one,” Alyssa Garcia, 10, said. She was part of Kid Zone. This was her second year helping at the fair.

The fenced arena was a constant source of interest and entertainment with young horse vaulters demonstrating their prowess on the back of a horse. Horse trainers including Dana Pedersen and Chuck Kraft instructed training techniques. A variety of other equine events kept the audience in awe on Friday and Saturday.

Sunday went to the dogs as canine athletes took over and wowed onlookers with feats of agility, Frisbee catching and an array of stunning tricks.

Authentic African hand drums and Cuban congas provided by Rhythm for Life gave eager fairgoers the opportunity to try out their rhythmic ability in the popular booth.

Representatives from one KeyFest sponsor, PenLight, were on site to hand out the familiar pens, pencils, notepads and other items.

“We like to give back to the community. We’re community owned and a community service,” said Jonathan White, the director of marketing and member services.

Second-generation author Brian Herbert of the Dune series stopped by the “Meet the Local Authors” booth to say hello. The Bainbridge Island resident continued writing the popular science fiction novels following the death of his father, Frank Herbert.

Reptile Man’s Mobile Reptile Zoo from Molalla, Ore. held a popular exhibit.

Wags and Whiskers 4-H dog club was in charge of running the animal exhibit.

Attendees were encouraged to fill out suggestion slips to see what things were great and what changes could be made to make the event even better next year.

KeyFest is run by the Key Peninsula Community Fair Association. The nonprofit organization headed this year by president Brandy Ellzey has two vice presidents, a secretary, treasurer and about 15 other volunteers.

“Between 2,800 and 3,000 people paid to get into the fair. Final expenses came to approximately $45,000. We still have some final expenses, but we made approximately $1,500 in profit,” Ellzey said. “We need more money through sponsors to keep gate costs down.”