With all due respect to the Pierce County Fair, which hosts its small, family-friendly four-day event in Graham in early August, the fair that really puts Pierce County on the map each year — the shindig that brings out our personality in all its outsized, deep-fried glory — can be summed up in three words:
Do the Puyallup.
It’s the lyric of the catchiest fair jingle ever written. It delivers a sharp punch of identity from an era long before hashtags or 253. It conveys a community pride that harks back to our childhoods, infused with memories of walking up Meridian, passing under the giant cow’s head and entering the Gold Gate.
The Puyallup Fair is who we are. No matter how far the marketing team expands its reach to Seattle and beyond, no matter the change of the official name to the Washington State Fair, no matter that some icons have been removed (so long, cow’s head). It still belongs to us.
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This year’s 20-day fair, which opens Friday, will offer a bounty of old and new attractions — and a nice gesture to the South Sound faithful who might’ve felt slighted in recent years.
For a slice of the old, you can go to the rodeo breakfast and cattle drive Friday morning, visit a litter of cute piglets at the Pig Palace, check out your dream hot tub or take a spin on the fair’s antique carousel, which turns 100 this year — just for starters.
If you’re looking for something new, adults can enjoy the Brew Park featuring Washington craft beers and live music, while the kids hit the Giant Insect Adventure and the Imagination Workshop.
For a blend of old and new, why not try a scoop of Fisher Scone flavored ice cream?
Progress won’t be stopped by tradition, which is why fair organizers last year made a major change to the calendar: They moved up opening day to Labor Day weekend, took over a longer stretch of September and shut down every Tuesday. They’re keeping those changes and switching things up even more this year by going dark on Sept. 6, the first Wednesday of the fair.
For the first time in five years, they also raised gate admission; it goes up by $1.50 per ticket. This is understandable, given the state minimum wage increase and other factors, but it fuels the feeling that the fair is further pricing itself out of some working-class family budgets.
To take the edge off, the fair offers a variety of discounts — including a first-time overture to Pierce County residents.
All three Thursdays (Sept. 7, 14 and 21) have been declared “Pierce County Thursdays,” a great chance for locals to claim 2-for-1 gate admission, 2-for-1 grandstand show tickets and a free reusable bag that boasts those three evocative words: Do the Puyallup. (No local ID required at the gate but you must download a coupon, available online at www.thefair.com.)
Call it a small token of appreciation for local fair fans, especially those who didn’t like the name change in 2013 and dreaded what the rebranding might represent.
“We want our Pierce County residents to know that we have listened to them,” fair spokeswoman Stacy Howard said this week. “A lot of them have told us, ‘No, you are the Puyallup Fair; you are getting too big and commercialized.’ We still appreciate our roots and where we came from.”
She said they wanted to print all the lyrics on the giveaway bags (everyone sing along!: “You can do it at a trot, you can do it a gallop …”) but they wouldn’t fit.
The solution should be simple enough: Next year, order bigger bags.