The pelting warm rain last Friday morning didn’t stop the hundreds of people coming to enjoy the opening day of the Washington State Fair.
As usual, a large herd of cattle led the parade down Meridian to usher in the annual fall fair, previously known as the Puyallup Fair.
“There were good crowds at the parade, so that’s a good sign,” said Karen LaFlamme, spokesperson for the Washington State Fair and Events Center.
LaFlamme said the rain Friday morning helped to wash away and clean the grounds naturally, preparing it for the crowds. Unfortunately, the new Luminasia exhibit west of the wooden Classic Coaster had an unexpected swell of rain flooding the area. The exhibit staff offered attendees a full refund.
“Safety precautions were taken,” LaFlamme said.
The different art pieces in Luminasia are lit with 50,000 bulbs. LaFlamme said the exhibit staff did not want to use any power while water was present.
Meanwhile, the Puyallup Food Bank received a record-breaking 212,000 pounds of non-perishable donations. The record is 12,000 pounds over last year’s earnings. Shanna Peterson, operations manager for the Puyallup Food Bank, said the non-perishable donations were down this year because of the rain. However, a $13,000 monetary donation from someone doubled to $26,000, thanks to a match from Microsoft, the donor’s employer.
“The cash donation will make a huge difference,” Peterson said. “For every dollar donated, $12 of food can be distributed.”
Inside the fair, husband and wife Jeanne and Leo Gervais made their way to the Fisher Scones line after looking at the quilts.
“Scones and quilts, that’s what we like,” Jeanne said. “We like seeing everything and everybody.”
Jeanne and Leo, Edgewood residents, are retired teachers from the Puyallup School District. The couple have come to the fair every year since 1957.
“It’s purely accidental that you will meet up with someone you know that you haven’t seen in a while,” Leo said. “It’s a great fair.”
After the scones, Jeanne and Leo headed to the Junkyard Sisters at the Green Marketplace.
Over at the fair museum near the Blue Gate, David Werner, 83, set his eye on a very large replica of a ferris wheel made out of toothpicks.
“I’m a local guy. I’ve been coming to the fair for 83 years,” Werner said. “I like looking at the old stuff. I came for the rodeo. Hopefully the weather will turn and get dryer.”
Werner said he remembers stories of how his father, an immigrant from Poland, would bang the sledgehammer on the gong for a prize at the fair.
Werner was born and raised in Puyallup and lived on a blackberry farm near the Puyallup Fish Hatchery. He met and married his wife, Darlene, also born and raised in Puyallup.
“My dad said, ‘David, there is no place like Puyallup,’” Werner said. “That is the place to live. And we have found that to be true.”
Donna Pierson, a fair employee, stood at the front of the fair museum greeting guests. She said artifacts in the museum date back to the beginning of the fair in 1900 when it was known then as the Valley Fair. The fair has been through many name changes, finally settling on the Washington State Fair this year.
“I think the name change is good,” said Pierson, who has attended the fair for more than 20 years. “In people’s mind, we are already known as a state fair. For group’s like FFA and 4-H, this is their state competition. It was time for the name change.”
At the center of the museum are several placards describing the long history of the fair spanning 11 decades. The first fair was Oct. 4-6, 1900. A family could attend the fair all three days for only $1.Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.