The Washington State Fair returns Friday (Sept. 5) with its time-tested mix of cowboy crooners, Krusty Pups, piglets and thousands of other things to see and do during its 17-day run.
Even though fair organizers didn’t have time to rebuild the Evergreen Hall, which burned on the final day of this year’s Spring Fair, all of its usual displays will be in the same spot inside a large tent. (Read more about that on today’s front page.)
Getting to the fair has gotten easier with the return of express bus service. If you’re headed there on Friday morning, expect to mingle with some four-legged guests starting at 10 a.m. Opening day is the day of the traditional cattle drive.
Entertainment options tap just about every genre: rock, country, blues, pop, Christian and Mexican music are represented.
NEW THIS YEAR
The big new feature is Vision Dome – 360° Cinematic Journey. It uses the entire interior surface of three domes to project images with different themes. The largest, a 69-foot dome, will take visitors on a tour of some of humankind’s most amazing achievements: the pyramids of Giza, Machu Picchu, the Apollo 11 moon landing and more. The 41-foot dome features interactive 3D gaming using visitors’ smart phones. A 20-foot dome gives visitors a look at outdoor sports.
The separately ticketed attraction is $6 for all three experiences. Children under 3-feet tall are free with a paying adult.
Another new feature is Fair Game Sports Bar, located in the former floral exhibit building just inside the red gate. It’s the new place to watch collegiate and professional games, including the Seahawks versusthe Denver Broncos Sept. 21.
This year's grandstand entertainment runs the gamut but reflects the enduring popularity of country music. This week’s headliners include country star Clay Walker on Friday (Sept. 5) and a joint appearance of Chicago and REO Speedwagon on Tuesday. (See accompanying stories on both shows.)
Other big names include Aussie pop star Cody Simpson (Sept. 10), rock band Fall Out Boy (Sept. 12), country crooner and “American Idol” judge Keith Urban (Sept. 13), country duo Florida Georgia Line (Sept. 15), ventriloquist Jeff Dunham (Sept. 18), and country star Toby Keith (Sept. 20). See the entire schedule in the accompanying list; purchase tickets at thefair.com/concerts.
Nonstop free entertainment on fair stages ranges from music to hypnotism to juggling. Local favorites include Sweet Kiss Momma, Olson Bros Band, Konzelman Family Band and Cottonwood Cutups. The fair’s website has the full roster of performers and locations.
Featured acts this year include:
Powerhouse: This group combines innovative tap, precision clogging and stomp into "Percussive Dance." (brianbon.com/powerhouse/)
Kids Celebration: This interactive game show is produced for children and parents to enjoy together with a colorful stage, memorable music and friendly team-style competition. (kidscelebration.org/fairevents.php)
Neon Anteaters: This duo of four-legged giants are what anteaters would be like if they were part human and covered in day-glo colors. These even have long, slurpy tongues. Bonus: they glow in ultraviolet light and with electroluminescent wire. (marcolandin.com/Neon_Anteaters.html)
Rock Bottom Boys: This group puts a hillbilly twist on tried-and-true rock hits from bands such as The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith and Sublime. reverbnation.com/therockbottomboys4
The Pro Rodeo and Justin Boots Playoffs kick off Friday and run through Sunday. Concerts by country music stars Clay Walker and Colt Ford follow the rodeos on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Admission is extra for both the rodeo and the concerts.
The Mexican music-themed Fiestas Patrias returns Sept. 14 and features the sons of two legendary Mexican singers: Antonio Aguilar Jr. and Vicente Fernandez Jr. Admission is extra. However, free Latino cultural entertainment will take place all day at Showplace and Mountain Mist Stages. On Sept. 13, groups from around the South Sound will pay homage to their Asian heritage through dance and music at Asian Cultural Day. Performances will be on the Showplace Stage and include Northwest Korean Dance, Fiji Community, Evergreen Chinese Academy, Thailand Cultural Group, Cambodian Dance Troupe of Tacoma, Vietnamese Traditional Dance, Laupama Methodist Youth, PilipinoAmerican Youth Organization , Okinawa Taiko and Hula. Admission is free with fair admission.
DISCOUNT DAYS AND DEALS
Fair admission is free Friday (Sept. 5) until noon, with a donation of a nonperishable food item. Last year, more than 200,000 pounds of food were collected for the Puyallup Food Bank on opening day.
The fair kicks off with its annual cattle drive and Western Rodeo parade at 10 a.m. Friday (Sept. 5) on Meridian. Horses, marching bands, equestrian drill teams and costumed characters will usher in the cattle.
Military Mondays (Sept. 8 and 15) offer free gate admission to all active, reserve and retired military and National Guard and their dependents, plus disabled veterans (with valid military ID).
However, senior days have been discontinued.
The fair offers a dizzying variety of package and discount deals, season passes and other specials on admission, rides, parking and concerts. Check the website for the full list.