Annie Gale is a fiery leader with a humble disposition.
Since 1963, Gale has lived three blocks from the fairgrounds in Puyallup and spent the entirety of the fall and spring fairs each year working at the treasury office next to the wooden Classic Coaster. She supervises ticket sellers and parking attendants.
She doesn’t like being in the spotlight.
“I’m one that would rather have my employees in the foreground and me in the background,” she said. “To me, they are what make the fair.”
The 81-year-old retired bank teller said she isn’t afraid of a challenge, and has adapted to many changes over the last 50 years, including the recent name change to the Washington State Fair.
“I’m a Leo,” Gale said. “If you put me in a position to take charge, I’m happy.”
Gale sat down with The News Tribune to talk about her memories of working at the fair.
Question: How did you start working at the fair?
Answer: Back in 1963, my boss at the bank was also the superintendent over the treasury. He had someone that quit on him for the nighttime 6 o’clock job checking people in. He knew I had some vacation time coming up, so he approached me to see if I’d be interested in working at the fair. He said, “Take your vacation now. I need you.” We still laugh about it. I just fell into it.
Q: Why have you kept coming back?
A: The people. Both the people I work with and when I’m out on the grounds. … You can get into some really interesting conversations with them while they’re trying to find where they’re going.
Q: How has the fair changed since you started working here?
A: When I first started, everything was done manually, before the computer age. As they gradually went to computers, the changes in the system kept making everybody’s job easier.
Q: What memory stands out most?
A: How the fair has grown. Even as a little kid coming to the fair and advancing into working at the fair and seeing how everything gets put together. One year, I got to ride on the wagons with the draft horses when we had a race track. … Nothing has ever disappointed me.
Q: Has your time here felt like a job?
A: No. To me, it is not a job, it’s a chance to do something constructive, a chance to do something that’s interesting. ... It keeps me young.
Q: Is it true that you’ve decided to stop working here?
A: It’s up in the air. I’m having second thoughts. But I don’t want to be in charge. I want to kind of sit back and maybe find something else to do or maybe be in the background. If I work at all, I’d like to be in a transition and let them be in charge.
Q: What is your favorite ride or attraction?
A: I haven’t seen it in the last few years, but I used to like to go on the Hammer. And I liked to go on the old roller coaster. Those were my two favorites. I loved to be upside down in the Hammer.
Q: Favorite fair food?
A: I love the baked potatoes, with the chives and bacon and you name it. I have to have at least one hamburger, at least one Krusty Pup and at least one baked potato. But I’m close to home if I want to go home for lunch.
Q: How will you enjoy the fair after you’re no longer an employee?
A: I can see a lot of things, like the fireworks on Friday nights, from my house. And I’ll probably make a couple trips down to see the exhibits. I love the animals because I grew up on a farm. … I’ll at least go a couple of times. I like the excitement. And as long as I’ve got two legs under me and I’m not in a wheelchair, using a cane or a walker, I can walk it. I don’t have to worry about parking.Kari Plog: 253-597-8682 firstname.lastname@example.org @KariPlog