Persistent rain didn’t keep eager fans of the Washington State Fair from lining the streets in downtown Puyallup for the opening-day rodeo parade and cattle drive Friday morning.
However, the weather did drive a lot of the crowds to indoor attractions when the gates opened.
Standing on the sidewalk, 12-year-old Autumn Johanson said she often comes on opening day but is relatively new to the parade. Craving excitement, her family started coming after cattle entered a downtown convenience store in 2009.
But this year was an ordinary cattle drive, with livestock running in an orderly fashion toward the fairgrounds.
When gates opened, volunteers and staff from the Puyallup Food Bank started collecting nonperishable donations for the annual first-day food drive.
Fair spokeswoman Karen LaFlamme said more than 212,000 pounds of food, a record-breaking amount, was collected in six hours. Cash donations accounted for a lot of that; the food bank has a formula for converting dollars into pounds of food.
The 17-day festival formerly known as the Puyallup Fair runs through Sept. 22. First-day visitors wasted no time checking out new and old attractions.
Cody Stratton, 18, of Tacoma was first in line to ride Rainier Rush. He came to the fair specifically for the new roller coaster, the first looping coaster on the fairgrounds.
Afterward, Stratton called it the fair’s best ride and said he plans to ride it “many, many more times.”
Stratton is a longtime fairgoer and wasn’t bothered by the weather.
“The best days to come are rainy days because it’s not crowded,” he said.
With nice weather in the forecast, LaFlamme said it’s likely those who avoided the fair Friday will come soon.
Rain left many rides on the midway sitting empty and idle Friday, covered in standing rainwater.
The newly renovated Classic Coaster was one of the exceptions.
Sabrina Ali, a 15-year-old who marched in the parade with Sumner High School’s color guard, tried out the wooden coaster for the first time.
“It was awesome!” she yelled afterward.
Sabrina’s friend 14-year-old Fherna Caoili had ridden it before its five-year renovation was completed this summer. After Friday’s ride, she said she prefers the older, bumpier tracks.
Crowds escaped the rain at indoor attractions and booths, including the livestock barn, the pavilion and the new Evergreen Hall — a combination of Grange displays and agriculture.
Fisher Scones booths had long lines, even outside.
While the rain dampened early expectations for the annual food drive, the 200,000-pound goal was exceeded because of cash donations as big as $13,000.
Shanna Peterson, operations director for the Puyallup Food Bank, said $10 can feed a family of four 48 meals.
Jerry Korum of Korum Automotive Group in Puyallup donated space for sorting the food, as he does each year. From there, food items are disbursed to food banks across Pierce County.
Bill Johnson of Graham has worked the food drive for about 10 years. He said it was already clear around noon that food donations were running lower than usual.
About 11:30 a.m., a midsize semitrailer was about half full. Most years, volunteers would have filled it with food, along with three other pickup trucks at one gate alone.
But the cash donations helped. Peterson said a small donation goes a long way.
“We can turn every dollar into $12 of food,” she said.
EVENTS TODAY AT THE FAIR
BECU Kids Free Weekend: 18 and younger free admission Saturday and Sunday, coupon is required; available at becu.org/freekids.
Luminasia, larger-than-life lantern festival, all day. Admission $12 single pass, $22 single pass with fair gate, $9 single use daytime.
Asian Pacific Day, groups from variety of cultures perform hourly, 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Showplace Stage.
Giant Pumpkin Carving, 11 a.m., Planting Patch.
Kids Tractor Pull, 11:15 a.m., 1, 3:15, 4:45 and 5:45 p.m., SillyVille.
Washington State Fair Rodeo, 1, 6:30 p.m., Grandstand.
Draft Horse and Driving Demonstrations, 2 and 3:30 p.m., Paulhamus Arena.
Trace Adkins Concert, 9 p.m., Grandstand. How to Do the fair
Hours: 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturdays; 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays.
Admission: $12.50 adults, $9 seniors (62 and over) and students (age 6-18); free 5 and younger. Tickets can be purchased online at thefair.com.
Parking: $12 Saturday-Sunday, $10 Monday-Friday.