Gird up your loins for three weeks of eating, entertainment, information and rides
Around these parts, the Washington State Fair (formerly the Puyallup Fair) is our festival of festivals. Having started in 1900, this annual harvest fest has been going on longer than any other festival in the area. As the largest single attraction in Washington state, it offers as much as our other festivals combined. It has as much diversity as Ethnic Fest, as much food as the Bite of Tacoma, as many vendors as the Home and Garden Show, more music than the various music festivals, more people than a street fair and as many animals as the zoo. The Washington State Fair, running Sept. 1-24, blends the old and the traditional with the new and unusual.
There, in Puyallup every fall, you can find a lavish, sumptuous abundance of sights, sounds, aromas, spectacles and experiences. There is something for everyone, from toddlers in their strollers to elders in their wheelchairs.
Are you a people person? You’ll encounter folks of every size, shape, age and complexion: rural youth in jeans, plaid shirts and cowboy boots; tattooed and pierced Grit City denizens; old folks; gobs of gleeful children; Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, African Americans, Latinos, albinos, hunchbacks, jokers, pirates, poets and hucksters. You will rub elbows with Latino families dressed to the nines — the men in stiff, Stetson hats, rhinestone-studded shirts and elaborately stitched boots. Seeking safety in numbers, clusters of teens, tweens and millennials form clots in the capillary flow of folks moving through narrow channels. You will hear the delighted screams of people plunging down the tower of the Extreme Scream, being shot high into the night sky on a giant sling shot, spinning on the hammer or plunging down the steep decline of the classic roller coaster.
While meandering throughout the expansive fairgrounds, you will have the chance to see exotic ducks, beautiful horses, prize cattle, clean-scrubbed pigs, bright-eyed goats, perfect chickens, baby chicks, llamas, donkeys, rabbits, guinea pigs, show dogs, draft horses and plump turkeys.
You will see rides festooned with lights and slathered with fantastic artwork. You will hear the delighted squeals of people on the rides and take in the smells of corndogs, hamburgers, fried onions, hickory-smoked ribs, roasted corn on the cob, cotton candy, popcorn, funnel cake, elephant ears, waffles and sizzling sausages. Music wafts everywhere. People playing games try to win giant, stuffed animals. Kids with fake swords and light-up toys and noisemakers tag along in the wake of their families. There are lines of fans waiting for the grandstand shows, or for a bag of scones. There are art shows, photography exhibits, slide shows, cooking demonstrations, and magic acts. In the grange hall, there are the lovingly arranged displays from the granges of Washington state. There are information booths passing out brochures on everything from bee keeping and beer brewing to knitting and woodworking.
You can view the home preserves, baked goods, quilts, afghans and needle work. You can watch demonstrations and attend to the sales pitches of barkers and promoters selling lotions, potions, vacuum cleaners, food processors, knives, frying pans and a multitude of new-fangled gadgets. You can watch garden shows and cooking shows in the hopes of receiving a free sample.
There are tubs of rubber duckies, moles to whack, squirt gun races, dunk tanks, BB gun shooting, darts to toss at balloons and baseballs to hurl at metal milk bottles.
In the plant barn you can admire people’s pampered houseplants, succulents, orchids, African violets and bonsai trees. You can browse cut roses, dahlias and daises.
You can collect a treasure trove of free brochures, pamphlets, newsletters, booklets, fact sheets and magazines.
You can enjoy free musical shows, hypnotists, unicycle acts, dog acts, puppet shows, belly dancer groups and acrobatics. You can watch the judging of farm animals, potters at the wheel, tole painters, ostrich egg carvers, woodcarvers, leather workers, face painters and caricature artists.
You can view collections of objects that individuals have carefully assembled over a lifetime. You can play games of chess, marvel at intricate doll houses and models or have the chance to join clubs devoted to clocks, geology or genealogy. You can join an environmental group, a political party or new religion.
After the rush and the crush and the activity of the day, the fair takes on a whole new guise with the setting of the sun. A fairyland of colorful lights emerges at night. The rides are at their most beguiling when lit up and moving against the starry sky. The music from the grandstand swells up. The lights of the food stalls, still beckoning with mouth-watering smells, seem all the more inviting. The crowds on the midway seem to thicken and one can flow along in a tide of humanity; everyone seeming happily bedazzled. …
Following are some of the highlights that the organizers of this year’s Washington State Fair want to highlight:
New Fisher Scone ice cream
This will debut opening day and be sold at nine locations on the grounds.
New Brew Park
Enjoy 24 taps of the best Washington craft beer and live music, daily. On Thirsty Thursdays, enjoy eight five-ounce samples, plus a collectible glass for just $30. Available each Thursday, 4 p.m. to closing. Tickets can be purchased at thefair.com in advance to reserve spots. Space is limited.
New Giant Insect Adventure
Enter a world where giant insects tower over people — 40 to 120 times larger than life-size. These carnivores and herbivores crawl, fly, camouflage and metamorphose. Experience the immersive and realistic habitats, complete with scenic background images, plants, and ground cover.
Watch two 11 ft. male Atlas beetles (Chalcosoma atlas) lock horns in a battle over mates in Asia. Hear the loud hissing sound of a 22-ft. jungle nymph stick insect (Heteropteryx dilatata) rubbing its wings together in self-defense. Forage for plants with a 15-ft. caterpillar (Papilio xuthus) in Asia before it morphs into a swallowtail butterfly. Travel with a 12-ft. desert locust (Shistocerca gregaria) as it consumes vegetation across dry regions. Stand in front of a 19-ft. praying mantis (Tenodera aridifolia) while it prepares to lunge at prey with its forelegs. Operate animatronic dragonfly, honey bee, and mosquito heads while gazing through massive magnifying glasses. Embark on a journey that is out of this world. Location/Cost: Centennial Building, $7, plus gate admission. Kids 2 and younger are free with a paying adult.
New Big Washington’s Imagination
Workshop (Paid Exhibit)
Kids of all ages can create, dig and build with a variety of tools and toys. Location/Cost: Red Gate Building, $5, plus gate admission (all ages).
100th Birthday of the Antique Carousel
September 2017 marks 100 years since the carousel begin spinning ‘round. Throughout the fairgrounds, we will celebrate the carousel’s birthday. The first 100 riders each day, all Labor Day weekend, will receive free commemorative buttons. Post Labor Day, the 100th rider each day will receive a button. Special carousel merchandise will be available for purchase in official Fair Merchandise locations, along with a carousel-themed penny press. 3D selfie stations located at the ride will give guests photo opportunities to celebrate. Additionally, the annual STAR 101.5 wedding will take place on the carousel this year.
Superhero Headquarters returns this year, after being a big hit with guests of all ages last year.
This free exhibit invites fans to visit the superheroes at the Washington State Fair Headquarters, where they’ll be on select dates of The Fair:
- Sept. 1-4, Spiderman and Green Goblin ©2017 MARVEL
- Sept. 7-11, Catwoman and Robin © DC Comics
- Sept. 13-18, The Joker and Wonder Woman © DC Comics
- Sept. 20-24, Batman and Superman © DC Comics
Designated Driver Program
Visit the Washington State Fair as a committed designated driver in the bar areas and receive a free Coca-Cola. Sponsored by Budweiser.
KOMO’s Opening Day at the Fair Food Drive/Free Gate Admission
• Sept. 1, (10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.)
The annual KOMO’s Opening Day at the Fair Food Drive kicks off again this year, with free admission for those who donate non-perishable food for the food drive. Free gate admission, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Food can be donated all open hours September 1. The food drive supports the Puyallup Food Bank, and distributes to 29 food banks and pantries in the South Sound area. Last year, approximately 200,000 pounds of non-perishable food was collected in one day.
BECU Free Kids’ Weekend
• Sept. 1-4
BECU welcomes young guests again this year, with free gate admission throughout the entire opening weekend. The special offer for ages 18 and under is valid Friday through Monday.
75th Remembrance of the Puyallup Assembly Center
• Sept. 2, 10-11 a.m.
The ceremony will remember and honor the nearly 7,400 Japanese & Americans of Japanese descent who were sent to the Puyallup Fairgrounds in 1942 when the U.S. Government took over the grounds under Executive Order 9066. Location: Coca Cola Stage followed by walking procession to Harmony Statue near Gold Gate. Mistress of Ceremonies: KING 5’s Lori Matsukawa
The Voice Contestant Meghan Linsey Performs
• Sept. 2-4
The Voice’s Season 8 Runner-Up Meghan Linsey will bring her country sounds as part of the free entertainment opening weekend. Location: Coca-Cola Stage. Two shows daily: 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
• Every Monday (Sept. 4, 11, 18)
Gate admission is free to all active, reserve and retired military and National Guard and their dependents, plus disabled veterans, when each shows valid military ID at any fair gate. Sponsored by Albertsons, Safeway and media partners KOMO News & KVI.
End of Summer Bash
• Sept. 4
Washington’s End of Summer Bash celebrates many of the things that make our state so great. Enjoy food, drinks, music and fun for all ages.
The grandstand will feature a fantastic free Washington Legends Tribute music event (11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.). Sample some of the most famous music from our state.
- Heart by Heart (Heart tribute band, with two original members of Heart)
- Randy Hansen (Jimi Hendrix tribute artist)
- The Spazmatics (80’s new wave cover band)
Buy tokens to sample some of Washington’s favorite wine, beer and food.
Unlimited rides and 2 free games will be available with the Xfinity Dizzy Pass.
Free commemorative bobblehead to the first 2,000 guests
Free Kids Day
Military Appreciation Day
Animals of the World
• Sept. 7-11
Exotic animals from around the world are on display in M Barn at the Animals of the World exhibit. Nigerian dwarf goats, yaks, miniature zebus, llamas, fainting goats and many more animals will be awaiting your visit.
New Pierce County Thursdays
• Every Thursday (Sept. 7, 14, 21)
We’ll be “Doing the Puyallup,” every Thursday, with special deals for Pierce County residents, including:
- Buy one get one free gate admission
- 2-for-1 Thursday grandstand shows.Buy one ticket, get one free to the Rodeo Playoffs, The Beach Boys and Modest Mouse with Built to Spill
- The first 1,000 guests each Thursday receive a fun “Do the Puyallup” reusable bag.
(Coupon required. Obtain at thefair.com)
Washington State Fair Rodeo Breakfast
• Sept. 8 (7:30-10 a.m.)
Drop by before the rodeo kickoff parade and enjoy some pancakes hot off the griddle; scrambled eggs, sausage and beverages. It’s right on the parade route, at the City of Puyallup’s Pioneer Park Pavilion, and the cost is only $2 per person. This breakfast is made possible by the Washington State Fair Rodeo Wranglers, and many generous partners in the area.
Washington State Fair Western Rodeo Parade and Cattle Drive
• Sept. 8 (10 a.m.)
A cattle drive down Meridian, Puyallup’s major arterial, kicks off this non-motorized parade. Equestrian drill teams, school marching bands, horse hitches, costume characters and loads of fun, kick off the fair and the rodeo.
School Supply Drive/Free Gate Admission
• Sept. 8 (10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.)
Following the Western Rodeo Parade and Cattle Drive, guests will earn free admission to the fair with a suggested donation of new school supplies, to benefit Communities in Schools. The donation drive will take place at the Gold and Red Gates.
Washington State Fair Rodeo, Justin Boots Playoffs, Presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts
• Sept. 7 (6:30 p.m.); Sept. 8 (6:30 p.m.); Sept. 9 (1 p.m., 6:30 p.m.) Finals, Sept. 10 (1 p.m.)
The Northwest’s biggest rodeo is only at the Washington State Fair. The athletes will fight for their rodeo lives to take home top honors and their chance at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas this December. You’ll see the top cowboys and cowgirls compete in each event. Purchase tickets at thefair.com/rodeo.
• Sept. 1, 22
Celebrate the fair’s opening and closing Fridays, with our spectacular fireworks show. The amazing display will light up the skies of Puyallup at 10 p.m.
Giant Pumpkin Carving
See master pumpkin carver Russ Leno create works of art out of giant pumpkins. Each creation is different, and he’s fascinating to watch in action.
Asia Pacific Cultural Center Day
• Sept. 16
Celebrate the vibrant cultures of the Far East on Saturday, Sept. 16. Area groups will pay homage to their heritage through traditional dress, dance and music. Performances all day from a variety of countries including Korea, Vietnam, Fiji, Thailand and Cambodia.
Draft Horses “Big Hearts Wear Pink”
• Sept. 16
In addition to the daily draft horse hitch demonstrations in the Paulhamus Arena each day at 2 and 3:30 p.m., they are hosting a special demonstration on Sept 16. Both demonstrations recognize those who have battled breast cancer, and will have some survivors riding on the hitches. The horses even get in on the act by wearing pink ribbons woven into their braids.
• Sept. 17
Washington’s biggest and best Fiestas Patrias celebration is free with fair admission. This full day event celebrates Latin culture and arts, with special entertainment and fun for the whole family throughout the fairgrounds.
New this year, there are two show times: 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. In both shows, guests will enjoy live music, including the fabulous Carmen Jara and El Chichicuilote. There will be a fabulous collection of Latin entertainment ranging from traditional mariachis to colorful folkloric dancers and authentic food. Additionally, guests can enjoy the traditional Grito de Independecia. And as always, all will enjoy the traditional fun of the fair with animals, rides, games, exhibits and shopping galore.
The Sea Gals
• Sept. 23 (1-2 p.m.; 4-5 p.m.)
The Seattle Sea Gals will be returning this year for 2 performances on the Showplace Stage, with a calendar signing follow each performance.
The Ultimate Tailgate
• Sept. 24 (and every game day)
Why have to choose between attending the State Fair and watching your favorite sporting game on TV? Enjoy large LED screens in the sports bar and family-friendly locations, so you can spin on your favorite ride, and enjoy your team’s game. On Sunday, Sept. 24, head over to the End Zone Sports Bar as the Seattle Seahawks take on the Tennessee Titans. Enjoy the game, food and fun-filled activities. Compete to be deemed the “Ultimate Fan” in your best blue and green garb.
Washington State Fair Info
Labor Day Weekend hours:
Sept. 1: 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Sept. 2 and 3: 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Sept. 4: 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Post-Labor Day Hours:
Mon., Wed., Thurs.: 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Fridays 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Saturdays 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Sundays 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
The fair is closed Tuesdays and on Sept. 6.
Pre-Fair Gate Admission: (On sale through Aug. 31)
- Adults $11
- Students (ages 6-18) $9
- Seniors $9
- Five and under free
Regular Admission Prices: (Starting Sept. 1)
- Adults $14
- Students (6-18 years) $10.50
- Seniors (62+) $10.50
- Five and under free
Weekdays (Mon., Wed., Thurs., Fri.) $10
Weekends (Sat., Sun.) $15
The fair is located at Washington State Fair Events Center, 110 9th Ave. SW,
Puyallup, WA 98371
For information visit: thefair.com