Arts & Culture

Southwest Washington Fair turns 100

The Southwest Washington Fair, happening through Sunday, is celebrating its centennial by taking a trip back in time.

And no, that’s not a reference to the concert lineup, which includes Micky Dolenz of The Monkees.

In fact, it’s a more literal return, with Western-music duo Nevada Slim and Cimarron Sue, who’ll be telling tales and singing songs of 1909 during their performances at the fair.

The first fair happened Sept. 6-11, 1909, said Sue Matley, also known as Cimarron Sue.

“The Alaska Pacific Yukon Exhibition was going on in Seattle during the same period,” Matley said. “That drew about 3.5 million people. There were frequent comments in the local newspapers about how ‘our midway is every bit as good as the one there.’ There was a lot of local pride.

“I believe it was opening day of the fair that Admiral Perry reached the North Pole,” she added. “There was a lot going on.”

Matley and her husband, Bruce Matley, also known as Nevada Slim, scoured old newspapers and got help from the Lewis County Historical Society and Museum and the Washington State Library’s Ask the Librarian program to track down the facts of the day.

“We are drawing most of our source material from four local newspapers in the Centralia-Chehalis area during the first fair,” Sue Matley said.

Music of the period that will be featured in the show includes “Casey Jones,” “Put on Your Old Gray Bonnet” and “By the Light of the Silvery Moon.”

The fair features the usual lineup of rides, contests, food and concerts. And the whole thing closes with a bang: There’s a demolition derby at noon Sunday.

While some concerts cost extra, there’s plenty of free entertainment happening throughout, including Nevada Slim and Cimarron Sue’s shows on Stage South at 1 and 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.

“We have three stages that are just constantly doing local entertainment,” fair manager Gale Sobolesky said.

Among the popular attractions: racing pigs, the Pirate’s Parrot show, a stiltwalker, and the Zambini Brothers with giant puppets.

“One is a giant polar bear,” Sobolesky said of the puppets. “What comes to my mind is Mardi Gras; that’s the look and feel of the puppets.

“I felt like they were really something to add for the 100th fair, because they are so different than what we’ve had.”

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