Puyallup mixes Meeker Days with US Open

The city of Puyallup was busy for its 125th anniversary celebration Saturday.

That’s partly because the June 19-21 Meeker Days Festival in its honor brought crowds downtown, and also because golf spectators gathered in the city to catch a designated shuttle to the U.S. Open in University Place.

But organizers said the overlap wasn’t a problem. The city accommodates more than a million visitors annually for the Washington State Fair in September, which officials said prepared it to manage the U.S. Open traffic amid the festival, named after city founder Ezra Meeker.

Meeker Days Festival manager Benjii Bittle said Saturday that he estimated the attendance to be 100,000 (on par with last year) at midday, and figured it would go up as people returned from Chambers Bay.

Some golf spectators seemed to stop by the festival’s wine garden on their way back to their vehicles Friday, Bittle said. He ran into multiple international travelers here for the U.S. Open who otherwise wouldn’t have visited Meeker Days, he said.

Friday attendance was up from 25,000 last year to roughly 35,000, he estimated.

One effect the U.S. Open had on the festival is that more of the bands are local this year, Bittle said. Inflated lodging prices made that more practical than putting up lots of out-of-town acts in $400-a-night rooms, he said.

The music is also supposed to be more danceable than in previous years.

“What I heard from the community is they want to come out and get their groove on,” Bittle said.

The increased number of vehicles in town didn’t seem to be a problem, he said. There were parking spots left midday.

“The traffic is not an issue at all,” Bittle said. “We’re used to it.”

Some people thought it seemed worse than other years.

“Horrific,” Rick Morris of Bonney Lake said, while enjoying the festival with his wife, Joan, and their Rottweiler, Kelsey. “We’re probably four blocks away.”

It took them less than half an hour to find a spot.

Others said they found parking in about 15 minutes.

Some didn’t have any trouble.

“We kind of know the loopholes, so for us it’s easy,” Rachel Codiga of Puyallup said. “We’ve made the mistakes before.”

She sat with sons Dane, 5, and Ethan, 15, underneath the vine in Pioneer Park that the Meekers planted in 1862, according to the Puyallup Historical Society booth nearby.

The food, the Codigas said, was part of the festival’s fun.

Asked what he’d had to eat, Dane smiled and said: “An elephant ear.”