During her 51 years working at the Washington State Fair, Marilyn Fankhauser has built up quite the social network.
She considers many demonstrators who come through Hobby Hall not just friends but family. One demonstrator who recently relocated to Hawaii jumped at the chance to meet up with Fankhauser and her husband at the airport during their vacation to the islands.
Fankhauser started her fair tenure working at Effie’s restaurant under the grandstands. That lasted until she got sick of smelling like onions. Then, she got to work in Collections, where people would bring in things they collected — everything from jars of pickles to postage stamps.
“I was so fascinated by what people brought in,” the 82-year-old said. “It’s just so fun to see what people collect.”
Never miss a local story.
Fankhauser recalled one time that a child submitted his collection of three pickle jars, just to get a pass to the fair.
“It was just precious with his three jars of pickles, just to get his fair pass for the day,” the great grandmother of six said.
After working in Collections, Fankhauser went on to become the demonstrator coordinator for Hobby Hall.
From there, Fankhauser developed what she calls a family-like bond with demonstrators who enter their crafts into the fair. Everything guests submit to Hobby Hall, Fankhauser and her crew accept.
“When the little kids come in with their Legos — holding them so tenderly — it’s so precious to see,” she said.
While no ribbons are guaranteed, renowned judges in every category judge doll houses, ceramics, wood carvings and more.
“Everything our guests bring in, we accept as long as it fits the category,” she said.
Reflecting back on her work with the fair, Fankhauser is convinced she has the best job in the world.
“This job has been so rewarding,” she said. “I’ve met some really fantastic demonstrators that are like family.”
Marilyn and her husband, Don, have both worked at the fair together during the 62-year marriage. The couple has four children, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.