Opening day of the Washington State Fair in Puyallup was sunny, warm and crowded. That’s in stark contrast to last year’s rainy launch of the annual 17-day event.
Thousands of people flooded the gates of the fairgrounds Friday, but not before hundreds lined the streets of downtown Puyallup — with few spots on the sidewalk to spare — for the annual cattle drive and parade.
“I’m hoping I’ll see one of (the cattle) break off like the last year I was here,” Puyallup resident Linda Ford said.
She and Sharon Bagnariol of Sumner planned to spend the day at the fairgrounds. They couldn’t wait for the famous Fisher scones. Bagnariol admitted her homemade versions don’t compare.
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She appeared more interested in edible treats than thrill seeking.
“She wants to go on the Extreme Scream,” Bagnariol said, reluctantly pointing to Ford. “But I don’t know about that.”
Downtown onlookers, who were drenched in an opening-day downpour last year, traded raincoats and umbrellas for sunglasses and shorts to prepare for temperatures in the upper 70s and low 80s Friday.
Many arrived early to attend the third annual rodeo breakfast at the Pioneer Park Pavilion.
Daffodil Festival princesses used cowboy boots to collect the $2-dollar breakfast tickets while Puyallup High School football players and other volunteers filled diners’ plates with pancakes, eggs and sausages.
Puyallup residents Mike and Kathy Hassur have come to the rodeo breakfast every year, often before heading to work.
“It’s a cool little thing for us to do together,” Mike Hassur said. “It’s a fun place to be.”
Scotty Getchell, the rodeo breakfast coordinator, said more advertising and collaboration with local businesses helped boost attendance for the pre-parade event.
Following the cattle drive (sans surprises from the cattle) and parade, crowds flooded the fair gates with truckloads of non-perishable donations for the food drive.
Shanna Peterson, director of the food bank, said the summer weather was clearly boosting participation. Without solid numbers available, she was confident that donations rivaled those from last year, which totaled about 212,000 pounds.
“The Lord brought us sunshine for our parade,” Peterson said. “No rain, just food flow.”
Inside the gates, fairgoers were practically tripping over each other.
Food stands and free exhibits were the most popular attractions, while rides were taking more time to get going.
People wasted no time buying scones and Earthquake Burgers, with lines growing almost immediately.
Shoulder-to-shoulder crowds slowly shuffled from barn to barn checking out livestock.
Luke the camel, owned by Jesse Kearn of Camels for a Cause, was one of the more popular animals. When he wasn’t giving rides or being hand-fed carrots, Luke nuzzled kids’ cheeks and put smiles on faces.
Kearn said the Washington State Fair is one of his favorite events. And that’s saying something, since one of his camels made a cameo in Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Can’t Hold Us” music video.
“We’ll come back for 100 years if they let us,” Kearn said of the fair.