Liberty State booth sets up at fair, despite petition against it

The Spokane County Interstate Fair kicked off on Friday with fair food, fun games and carnival rides. However, one vendor at the fair caused a stir before getting their place at the fairgrounds.

That vendor is Liberty State, a group that wants to split Washington state into two. A petition was started, garnering more than 1,000 signatures, asking the fair to not let them set up camp there.

Erin Gurtel, the director of the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center, said that all vendors have to go through an application process to get a space on their grounds.

Liberty State applied to be at the fair and was granted that.

“Of course, we do respect our vendors freedom of speech. Along with that, we have stringent guidelines for all of our vendors out here that they do have to stay in their booths,” she said. “If anyone wants to engage with that vendor, they need to walk up with them and have a conversation. They’re not allowed to come out of their booths and approach our guests.”

Gurtel said she did receive some phone calls from citizens voicing their opinions to them, but in the end, they felt the Liberty State group had a right to be there.

“They met our guidelines. We have a number of political parties here, religious groups along with our food and commercial vendors. We expect everything will go just fine, and they know what our rules are,” she said.

Spokane resident Jessa Lewis started the petition. She was disappointed with the overall outcome, as she grew up loving the fair as a family event.

“It’s concerning to me that the conversation is now becoming how divided we are and us versus them. I don’t see the movement towards the 51st state helping to address any of the core issues that we’re actually facing as a community and a country,” she said.

On the Liberty State website, it says they will have lower tax obligations, limited government, economic prosperity and a greater amount of freedom – a message that they wanted to share with others at the fair.

“There’s a lot of differences between the east and the west side particularly in the five counties, especially around Puget Sound. The values are different. I think the economies are quite different and I think we can support ourselves quite well,” said John Christina, Liberty State captain for Spokane County.

They spoke to William Smith for quite some time at their booth. He eventually signed the petition in support of Liberty State.

“I think it’s OK for them to be here. All views need to be represented. If they’re excluded, then their view is not represented. They need to be here,” Smith said.

Christina said they had two objectives at the fair, one is public outreach and the other is political engagement. They knew about the petition against them for being at the fair, and Christina said he was disappointed because no one asked them what they were all about.

“There are some press reports that’s honestly not accurate. They just took off, various media picked them up. No one asked us what our opinion was or what we were trying to do,” he said.

While Liberty State did get that booth, Lewis said she understood having to respect the constitutional rights.

“Even those who will seek to strip us from our own rights to the constitution. That’s one of the challenges and beauty of the system we’re a part of,” she said.