New frontiers, old favorites at 115-year-old State Fair

Funtastic employee Marvin Ross operates the Tilt-a-Whirl at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup in 2014.
Funtastic employee Marvin Ross operates the Tilt-a-Whirl at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup in 2014. Staff photographer file, 2014

The Washington State Fair returns Friday (Sept. 11) with 17 days of Duran Duran, comedic gun fights and a new hairy mascot. Plus Star Trek, candy and beer.

Tradition is strong at the 115-year old fair. As in years past, it kicks off with the annual cattle drive and rodeo parade starting at 10 a.m. on Meridian Avenue in downtown Puyallup. A $2 rodeo breakfast will be offered from 8-10 a.m. at Pioneer Park’s Pavilion.

Gate admission is free from 9 a.m.-noon Friday (Sept. 11) with a recommended nonperishable food donation for Puyallup Food Bank.

During the rest of the fair’s run you can find entertainment options to please just about everyone. Music acts include rock, country, pop, funk and a ventriloquist who covers them all.


Star Trek-The Exhibition: This exhibit, based on decades of the “Star Trek” TV series and films, allows fans to get up close with show artifacts, displays, models and interactive kiosks. It’s a separate ticketed exhibit.

Sweet! A Tasty Journey: This nostalgic look at American confections spans generations. Interactive displays and activities will appeal to more than just taste buds.

Beer Haven: This celebration of the American craft brewer features a giant mobile tap room with regional brews. Visitors can talk with brewmasters and learn about beer making.


As usual, The Fair has pulled in some current chart toppers and big-name acts, including Jason Derulo (Sept. 26), Pitbull (Sept. 27), Keith Urban (Sept. 19) Iggy Azalea (Sept. 22), and ventriloquist Terry Fator (Sept. 18). Veteran performers include Duran Duran (Sept. 23), Heart (Sept. 15), Patti LaBelle (Sept. 21), “Weird Al” Yankovic (Sept. 14) and Kool and the Gang (Sept. 25).

Country is well represented with Crystal Gayle and Lee Greenwood (Sept. 17), Jake Owen (Sept. 24), Dan + Shay (Sept. 12) and Colt Ford (Friday, Sept. 11).

Christian artists Chris Tomlin and Toby Mac will perform on Sept. 20 and girl group Fifth Harmony hits the stage on Sept. 16.

Look for interviews with Yankovic and Greenwood in today’s GO section. More interviews with fair performers including Fator and Duran Duran will run in GO on Sept. 18 and 25.

Recurring acts this year include: Country singer Bryan White (Sept. 11-13, Coca-Cola Stage) and comedic juggler Roberto the Magnificent.

It’s not just pros who will be performing during the run. Step Up to the Mic is a new lip sync battle taking place on Sept. 18. The annual Catch a Rising Star Talent Show is open to all forms of talent beginning Thursday, Sept. 24, with the finals on Sept. 26.


Two new midway and one SillyVille ride will debut at the fair.

Evolution: This large thrill ride has a revolving arm that holds counterweights on one end and a rotating hub on the other end, which holds 10 cars.

Rock Star: This thrill ride elevates riders 55 feet above the midway on top of a flying platform. It gives riders a free-fall experience.

Phoenix Wheel: This classic kid-friendly wheel is located in SillyVille and reaches a height of 65 feet.


The Washington State Fair Rodeo kicks off Friday (Sept. 11) and runs through Sunday. The rodeo is a qualifier for the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. Admission is extra. Friday and Saturday’s rodeos includes concerts from Colt Ford and Dan + Shay.


The Mexican music-themed Fiestas de las Familias is Sept. 20 and features six acts including Grammy winners Mariachi Divas. The free shows will run 11 a.m.-8 p.m. at the Showplace and Mountain Mist Stages.

Asia Pacific Cultural Day is Sept. 12 and features traditional dress, dance and music.


Bigfoot: The Fair is calling him “Big Washington.” The 7-foot tall costume character is already making appearances in TV ads, so sightings should be plenty. Another Sasquatch created by wood carver Bob King is 9 feet tall. Photo ops with the costume character can be had in the Planting Patch, and the chainsaw carving will located by the Gold Gate Fountain.

Woodworkers: The Northwest Woodworkers Exhibition has the handmade work of regional professional, amateur, and student woodworkers. Local and nationally known woodworkers will demonstrate their craft. Look for it on the second floor of the Pavilion.

Timber Gulch: This new western/pioneer town comes complete with a jail, a comedy gunfight show, pioneer farming, shopping, a saloon, and a cowboy boot camp for young cowboys and cowgirls. Look for it in the Green Gate area.


Plenty of fair staples are in place and include 4-H and FFA animal displays and shows, home arts and cooking contests and quilts, photo show, Hobby Hall and floral designs. Over 800 vendors will provide early Christmas shopping.


Fair admission is free Friday (Sept. 11) until noon, with a donation of a nonperishable food item.

Military Mondays (Sept. 14 and 21) offer free gate admission to all active, reserve and retired military and National Guard and their dependents, plus disabled veterans (with valid military ID).

Senior Thursdays (Sept. 17 and 24) will offer senior entertainment including a gardening presentation by Ed Hume.

The fair offers a variety of package and discount deals, season passes and other specials on admission, rides, parking and concerts. Check the website for the full list.


Where: 110 Ninth Ave. SW, Puyallup.

When: Friday (Sept. 11) to Sept. 27. Gates open at 9 a.m. Friday. Hours are 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays.

Tickets: Adults $12.50; youth (ages 6-18) and seniors (62 and older) $9; ages 5 and younger get in free. A variety of packages can be purchased online.

Concert tickets: thefair.com/concerts.

Getting there: The Fair Express bus service is offered by Pierce Transit. Riders can catch Pierce Transit buses at South Hill Mall, Lakewood Towne Center and Tacoma Mall (all with free parking) and ride to the fair’s blue gate with limited stops. Service will run hourly Mondays-Thursdays from approximately 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and every 30 minutes Fridays-Sundays from approximately 9:15 a.m.-11:15 p.m. Fares are Pierce Transit’s regular rates.

Sounder trains will service the fair Sept. 19 and 26. Trains will travel south from Everett to the Puyallup depot, providing service to nine stations along the way. Shuttles will then take passengers to the fairgrounds. See soundtransit.org for schedules.

Information: 253-841-5045, thefair.com.

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