The Washington State Fair in Puyallup doesn’t start until the cattle charge.
And charge they did — after stopping for a quick snack.
The streets near downtown Puyallup swelled Friday with eager spectators who turned out to soak up the sun and kick off the annual 17-day fair. The end-of-summer celebration attracts more than a million people each year.
Sunny skies and warm temperatures greeted large crowds lining the sidewalks for the parade and cattle drive Friday morning.
Teresa Finley looked festive with spangly diamond-shaped earrings, ankle-high tasseled boots and bedazzled Western attire. The lifelong Puyallup resident said she’s never missed the fair in 50-plus years.
“It’s tradition,” she said. “I like to see the changes every year.”
Finley also said she never misses the cattle drive.
At the starting point Friday, cattle funneled one by one down a semitrailer ramp. Then they were off, barreling down South Meridian to cheers and applause.
It was mostly uneventful, although several animals abruptly stopped near the start, jumped onto the sidewalk among the crowd and indulged in a pre-fair treat — the plants in front of Puyallup City Hall.
City Manager Kevin Yamamoto and City Attorney Steve Kirkelie just missed the commotion.
“They were getting a little snack, huh?” Kirkelie said, laughing.
The wranglers got the cattle back on track, leading the way to the Gold Gate, where people were already lining up to enter the fairgrounds.
There, the Puyallup Food Bank was well underway with its annual food drive. Officials said they expected to collect more than 100,000 pounds of food donations this year.
The food drive is Puyallup Mayor John Knutsen’s first stop on opening day — shortly followed by a trip to the Fisher Scones booth, of course.
Knutsen has attended for nearly 60 years and has early memories of a much smaller fair.
“There was 10 percent of what you have now,” he said.
He praised organizers for the impressive concert lineup each year. If it weren’t for a regularly scheduled Puyallup City Council meeting next week, Knutsen said, he would be in the grandstands for rock group Heart.
Just off the midway, Parkland residents Jessie Reynolds and Donna Harmon sat and enjoyed a couple of scones from their large haul.
“Been buying them all my life,” Reynolds said of the flaky pastries.
Dedication to scones runs in the family. Her grandmother helped prepare them at the fair in 1915.
Asked what her favorite part of the fair is every year, Harmon simply pointed at her empty scone wrapper.
No words necessary.
IF YOU GO
What: Washington State Fair.
Where: 110 Ninth Ave. S.W. in Puyallup.
When: Sept. 11-27; Monday-Thursday 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 9 a.m.-11p.m., Sunday 9 a.m.-10 p.m.
More: Visit thefair.com for more information.