When the Puyallup Fair opens today, it won’t be just the cattle wearing new stamps. The entire fair itself has been newly branded.
Goodbye, Western Washington Fair. Hello, Washington State Fair.
And along with a new name comes a slew of new attractions to go along with the fair traditions of scones, piglets and gigantic pumpkins.
Entertainment options tap just about every genre: Rock, country, blues, pop, Christian and Mexican music are represented. Comedians, cowboys and dancers will take the stage. And a new roller coaster and light shows will fill the skyline.
Call it what you want, but you’ll still be able to “Do the Puyallup” in Puyallup.
NEW THIS YEAR
Roller coasters: Roller coaster aficionados swear by wooden versions for their sway and flexibility. Plus there’s that back-of-mind fear the whole thing will come tumbling down at any moment. What could be more exciting? A five-year renovation of the fair’s wooden roller coaster, operating since 1935, has just been completed.
But the fair’s newest roller coaster, Rainier Rush, opens today. The 60-foot-high, all-metal coaster is the modern counterpoint to ol’ woody. Riders will experience 5.8 times the force of gravity as they careen through an 80-degree banked inversion, wavy tracks and stomach-churning drops.
Luminasia: Multistory-high “lanterns” resembling everything from giant flowers to Mount Rainier will be lit from within on the two-acre site of “Luminasia.” The Chinese-produced spectacle offers a reduced day admission but save your money: It’s best seen at night. (See accompanying story.)
Cirque Magnifique: This circus theater company combines clowning with circus acts, live music and lighting effects. Think free Cirque du Soleil.
Laser Hitz Show: This free show sets music to choreographed lasers and images. Shows are at 9 and 9:30 p.m. daily.
This year’s Grandstand entertainment runs the gamut. Headliners include Little Big Town (Sept. 9), Al Jarreau with the Tacoma Symphony (Sept. 10 – see accompanying article), Cheap Trick (Sept. 11), CeeLo Green (Sept. 12), Carrie Underwood (Sept. 13), Alabama (Sept. 17), Larry the Cable Guy (Sept. 19), Bridgit Mendler with Austin Mahone (Sept. 21), and Kid Rock (Sept. 22). See the entire schedule and purchase tickets at thefair.com/concerts.
The fair also offers nonstop free entertainment on its stages ranging from longtime musical favorites The Shoppe, to hypnotist Tina Marie, to Mama Lou: American Strong Woman. New this year is Vocal Trash. Described as “Glee meets Stomp,” Vocal Trash uses song, dance and garbage cans in its high-energy performance.
The Pro Rodeo and Justin Boots Playoffs kick off today and run through Sunday. Concerts by country music stars Craig Morgan and Trace Adkins follow the rodeos on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Admission is extra for both the rodeo and the concerts.
The Mexican music-themed Fiestas Patrias returns Sept. 15 and features recording artist Roberto Tapia, a coach on Telemundo’s “La Voz Kids,” as its headliner. His album, “El Muchacho,” hit the top spot on Billboard’s Top Latin Albums chart in 2012. Admission is extra.
DISCOUNT DAYS AND DEALS
Fair admission is free today until noon with a donation of a nonperishable food item. Last year, more than 200,000 pounds of food were collected for the Puyallup Food Bank on opening day.
Military Mondays (Sept. 9 and 16) offer free gate admission to all active, reserve and retired military and National Guard and their dependents, plus disabled veterans (with valid military ID). Senior Tuesdays are Sept. 10 and 17 with activities, coupons and refreshments for early risers.
The popular midweek Dizzy Pass is now also being offered this opening weekend. The $35 pass allows unlimited rides (Extreme Scream and Rainier Rush excluded) and one free game.
The fair offers a dizzying variety of package and discount deals, season passes and other specials on admission, rides, parking and concerts. Check the website for the full list.
Sound Transit will provide Sounder Train service to the fair on two Saturdays, Sept. 14 and 21. Trains will travel north from Lakewood and south from Everett to the Puyallup depot, providing service to 12 stations along the way. Shuttles will then take passengers to the fairgrounds. Check soundtransit.org for schedules.
THIS WEEKEND’S HIGHLIGHTS
Friday: The fair kicks off with its annual cattle drive and Western Rodeo parade at 10 a.m. on Meridian. Horses, marching bands, equestrian drill teams and costumed characters will usher in the cattle.
Before that, the Fair Rodeo Breakfast will run from 8-10 a.m. at the Pioneer Park Pavilion, across from Puyallup City Hall, next to the parade route (cost is $2). It features scrambled eggs, sausage and beverages.
The rodeo itself runs today through Sunday. Today’s opener is at 1 p.m. Some of the country’s top cowboys and cowgirls will compete in this qualifier for the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. Purchase tickets at thefair.com/rodeo.
Country crooner Craig Morgan begins the fair’s concert series at 6:30 p.m. today after the rodeo’s conclusion.
Saturday: There’s free admission for anyone 18 and younger on Saturday and Sunday. To take advantage of BECU Free Kids’ Weekend, download a coupon at becu.org/freekids and turn it in at the gate either day in lieu of gate admission for youth.
Country singer Trace Adkins will perform at 6:30 p.m. after the rodeo concludes.
Sunday: The rodeo finals begin at 1 p.m. with the best of the best competing.
The Washington State Fair
Where: 110 Ninth Ave. SW, Puyallup
When: Today-Sept. 22. Gates open at 9 a.m. today. Daily hours: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays, 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturdays, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays
Tickets: Adults $12.50; youth (ages 6-18) and seniors (62 and older) $9; ages 5 and younger get in free
Information: 253-841-5045, thefair.com