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Washington State Fair lands giant new Ferris wheel — but don’t expect to see the boss on it

View from Grand Wheel will be kiss-worthy

The addition of the Grand Wheel, the third and biggest Ferris wheel at the Washington State Fair, will provide a sublime view of the Midway and beyond. Placed adjacent to the fair’s classic wooden roller coaster, the Grand Wheel stands 108 feet ta
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The addition of the Grand Wheel, the third and biggest Ferris wheel at the Washington State Fair, will provide a sublime view of the Midway and beyond. Placed adjacent to the fair’s classic wooden roller coaster, the Grand Wheel stands 108 feet ta

Even though he’s vice president of Funtastic Shows, which provides the rides at the Washington State Fair, Ron Burback Jr. doesn’t go on them.

“My equilibrium would be off for a day and a half,” the Portland man said of his experiences after getting off a ride.

Burback, 60, has worked at amusement parks since he was about 13, beginning at the now-closed Jantzen Beach Amusement Park in Portland. He later joined his father’s company at 28.

But even then, he wasn’t one to get on the rides. He gets questions about the irony of his situation, but said he doesn’t mind. He likes the rides for other reasons.

“I like to watch them, watch the action,” he said. “Rides just have a way of kicking up the energy.”

Funtastic Shows is responsible for setting up the rides and games at the Puyallup fairgrounds. This year’s event will start Friday and run through Sept. 25.

The 2016 fair will see a major addition to the lineup of rides: the Grand Wheel, the third and biggest Ferris wheel at the fair.

Burback said the ride should be welcomed by people of all ages, even those — such as himself — who don’t necessarily love to go on the crazier rides.

“There’s not going to be anybody that’s not going to go on the biggest Ferris wheel,” he predicted.

The Grand Wheel, placed by the fair’s classic wooden roller coaster, stands 108 feet tall and features 24 gondolas of various colors.

Organizers asked for the wheel in response to guests requesting that type of ride, fair spokeswoman Stacy Howard said.

“Really, at night, where we’re putting it up, it’ll be great,” she said, referring to the Ferris wheel’s LED lights, which will brighten up the ride at night.

Starting this year, the annual event’s usual crowd of more than 1 million fairgoers will have some extra time to visit the Grand Wheel and the other new features, which range from the Discover the Dinosaurs exhibit to the Agriplex building to python sausage.

The fair has extended its three-week-plus schedule this year to cover Labor Day weekend.

For the first time, it will be closed Tuesdays to “relieve traffic during three work/school days” and to allow vendors, exhibitors and fair superintendents to restock and rest, according to the fair’s website.

Organizers say the fair plans to keep the extended dates for the foreseeable future.

As for Burback, he said his crews have worked hard to get everything ready in time for Friday’s opening.

“We’re passionate about the rides,” he said. “We always want to make something new to the public.”

The Washington State Fair

When: Friday through Sept. 25 (except Tuesdays.)

Hours: Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m.- 9 p.m.; Fridays, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sundays, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

Prices: Adults, $12.50; students (6-18), $9; seniors (62 and older), $9; children (5 and under), free.

Parking cost: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, $10; Saturdays and Sundays $15.

More information: www.thefair.com.

Getting to the fair

By bus: Pierce Transit will offer express bus service to the Washington State Fair, leaving from the Tacoma Mall (near JC Penney), Lakewood Towne Center (behind Target) and South Hill Mall (near JC Penney).

First bus will leave at 9:15 a.m.; last bus leaves the fair at 10:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and at 11 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Local routes 4, 400, 402 and 425 will make trips to and from the fair.

One-way fares are $2 for adults ($5 for all-day pass); $1 for seniors/disabled and youths 18 and under ($2.50 for all-day-pass); free for children under 5 with a fare-paying passenger. Special family fare allows up to four children 13 and under to ride free with a fare-paying passenger

For more information: bit.ly/2c0XBmX

By train:

The South Transit Sounder train will run on two Saturdays (Sept. 17 and Sept. 24) from nine stations between Everett and Puyallup. Pierce Transit buses will take riders from Puyallup Station to the fair’s Red Gate.

For more information and schedules: bit.ly/2bHzG81

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