Alana Tracer couldn’t contain her excitement as a man pedaled past on a unicycle that looked to be at least 6 feet tall. She clapped and let out a squeal.
“I like it!” she said.
The 4-year-old Auburn girl, one of hundreds who came Friday to the Western Rodeo Parade and Cattle Drive through downtown Puyallup, had plenty of other things to like as well.
There were marching bands, dancers, police on motorcycles with lights flashing, cowboys on horseback and about two-dozen steers thundering toward the fairgrounds – and marking the start of the 17-day Puyallup Fair.
Spectators young and old lined the route down Meridian Street to Seventh Avenue Southwest, then to Second Street Southwest next to the fairgrounds. Some came with camping chairs; others found spots on the curb to sit, or stood on crowded sidewalks.
Zach Brincken, 11, of Lacey came early with his family and found a parking lot with a good vantage point. They perched on the backs of their cars.
“I like the marching bands,” Zach said.
His brother Ben, 9, said he liked them, too. But his mind already was on the fun he planned to have inside the fair gates. He wanted to make a stop at one ride in particular.
“The Spider,” Ben said. “It goes up and down. It’s crazy.”
The fair started in 1900 and has become one of the biggest in the world, usually drawing more than 1.1 million during its run. Last year, attendance was 1,065,208, down 117,827 from the year before.
Under sunny skies Friday morning, throngs of fair-goers poured through the gates, taking advantage of free admission for the first two hours. On Seventh Avenue, Katrin Hagman of Gig Harbor and her kids waited for the parade and cattle drive, and talked about the fun they planned to have.
Benjamin, 9, said he hoped to see fire engines in the parade.
Linnea, 7, was thinking about fair food, especially scones.
And Annika, 4, wanted to see the animals.
“We’re going to ask the bunny owners if we can pet the bunnies,” she said, as the parade was about to start.
“They’re so cute.”