They worked quickly, filling balloon after balloon with air and stuffing them into giant plastic bags.
The Puyallup fairgrounds hummed around them, but they didnt seem distracted. They still had so much to do.
We have to fill the whole back wall, Paula Frischman said, motioning behind her.
She and Leia Rhinehart both work for Funtastic, and theyll operate games during the Puyallup Fair, which kicks off today and runs through Sept. 23.
The women, both from Portland, were among scores of game and ride operators, food and commercial vendors and exhibitors buzzing around the fairgrounds Thursday, wrapping up details with the few hours they had left before opening day.
Trucks were parked everywhere. People unloaded and unpacked, cleaned and polished, crossed tasks off their lists.
They prepared for the rush. The Puyallup Fair is among the biggest in the world, drawing more than 1 million people during its run.
For many in the South Sound and beyond, its a tradition.
The wooden roller coaster. The rodeo. The Krusty Pups. The Fisher scones.
Miata Pierson, 21, of Spanaway, has attended plenty of times, but this year will be just her second as an employee. She worked at a ride during her previous stint and planned this year to try her hand running a game.
On Thursday morning, she awaited orientation with Shontia Walton, 19, of Seattle, and dozens of other soon-to-be coworkers, in a long line that snaked through the ride area.
Walton had never worked the fair, and Pierson passed on some wisdom.
Its fun, she said, and different than attending. You actually get to see how everything works, Pierson said.
For Bob Schillereff of Maple Valley, it likely will be exhausting. Hes a wildlife photographer, and hell occupy a 10-by-20-foot commercial booth during the fairs 17 days, selling his prints.
Taking the photos is the fun part, Schillereff said. The setup Thursday seemed a little stressful. Schillereff arrived at 8 a.m. and two hours later had a lot of organizing left.
They all need to fit in the booth, he said, pointing to stacks of stray photos.
But he was confident it would all get done.
Rhinehart and Frischman were, too.
As the women filled balloons for a game, they talked about what it would be like.
Rhinehart, 19, has worked other fairs, but not the Puyallup. She knew it would be big, with dense crowds.
Thats exactly right, said Frischman, 56, a veteran. Thousands come through each day, and for the most part theyre wonderful and you have a great time with them.
It can be chaotic, she said. But thats part of the experience, the thrill.
Just then, one of the balloons popped. The women smiled but didnt stop.
They had a lot of work to do and not a lot of time. They kept filling the balloons, one by one.
NO SHUTTLES THIS YEAR
The Puyallup Fair isnt using a private company to run shuttles to the fairgrounds this year a step it took last year after Pierce Transit eliminated its special-event service in a round of cuts.
The private buses in 2011 were costly to the fair and not well used by fairgoers, said Karen LaFlamme, fair spokeswoman.
People this year can take regular transit routes to the fairgrounds on the edge of downtown.
More information on transportation options is posted on the fairs website, www.thefair.com, under the tab Getting Here.