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Puyallup celebrates 125th anniversary with chants, memories

Bob Arnold points to an old photo of the city’s opera house and explains its history, as he remembers it, to a group of guests at Puyallup’s 125th anniversary celebration at the Pioneer Park Pavilion, August 19, 2015. Arnold is a retired teacher who has lived in the same home in the city for more than 50 years.
Bob Arnold points to an old photo of the city’s opera house and explains its history, as he remembers it, to a group of guests at Puyallup’s 125th anniversary celebration at the Pioneer Park Pavilion, August 19, 2015. Arnold is a retired teacher who has lived in the same home in the city for more than 50 years. Staff writer

Puyallup marked a historic milestone this week with a “visit” from its first mayor and a chant underscoring the city’s proper pronunciation.

The first mayor, Ezra Meeker, portrayed by living-history performer Ray Egan, joined roughly 200 residents and local and state officials and former officials on Wednesday evening to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Pierce County’s third-largest city.

The crowd enjoyed refreshments, including iced coffees called “Meeker Mochas.” They also contributed to an interactive community timeline featuring old photos and handwritten memories.

Bob Arnold pointed out different points on the timeline to a group of guests, describing his memories of the old opera house. The 1954 graduate of Puyallup High School has lived in the same house for 55 years. He said he’s watched the city tear down two libraries and build three.

Arnold said he stayed in the community for its quiet atmosphere.

“People hang around here,” he said.

Organizations such as the Washington State Fair and the Daffodil Festival set up booths outlining their histories.

Local TV sports personality Chris Egan, a Puyallup native, pumped up the crowd. He told stories of winning the hokeypokey contest at Tiffany’s Skate Inn and proposing to his now wife at DeCoursey Park. Then he led the audience in a Puyallup rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

He even invited his brother, Microsoft executive Mike Egan, to the stage to lead people in a “Puyall-UP” chant — with the proper pronunciation, of course.

Later, a video showed some of the things locals love about Puyallup, Andy Anderson of the Puyallup Historical Society gave a history lesson, and “Ezra Meeker” delivered a living-history monologue.

Ray Egan (no relation to the Egan brothers) said the event was a chance to celebrate what Puyallup pioneers created for people today.

“This is a celebration of the past and a celebration of what is to come,” he said, while remaining in character as Ezra Meeker. “Someday, these people will be pioneers.”

Some living former city officials also attended Wednesday, including Mike Deal, a two-term mayor and retired Puyallup School District principal. He served as mayor from 1994-1998 and 2005-2006.

“I don’t think we’ve lost our sense of unity,” Deal said, noting that even this month’s violent crime spree couldn’t divide the community. “It’s a good family city. I hope it’s like this for another 125 years.”

Current city and state elected officials also turned out.

“I love Puyallup,” state Rep. Hans Zeiger said of his hometown. “It’s got a great tradition.”

Rep. Melanie Stambaugh, an Emerald Ridge High School graduate and former Daffodil Festival queen, said it’s important for the city to stay connected with its roots.

City Manager Kevin Yamamoto agreed. He grew up in Puyallup and used to work in the daffodil fields at now-defunct Van Lierop Bulb Farm.

“There’s a lot of folks here who have made important contributions to the city,” he said.

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