Washington State Fair opens, still welcoming all to 'Do the Puyallup'

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PUYALLUP — You can call it whatever you want, but to Devin Jones, 28, it will always be the Puyallup Fair.

"We learned the jingle in elementary school, 'You can do it at a trot. You can do it at a gallop,'" she intoned.

Jones was among the first people through the gates Friday morning as the event that now calls itself the Washington State Fair opened its 17-day run under drizzly skies.

Except for the names on some signs, it looked a good deal like the Puyallup Fair of yesteryear:

Animals. Rides. Concerts. Arts, crafts and hobbies galore. Amazing new products, ears of corn the size of a child's arm and, of course, hot, buttery scones.

The fair's name change -- which organizers hope will boost the event's profile -- doesn't sit well with some Puyallup residents, including Jones.

But that didn't keep her away. "It's a tradition," said Jones, arriving with her mother, Ginger Kemp, who's been coming to the fair for more than four decades.

Kemp shares her daughter's sentiment.

"I understand the whole thing about branding," she said. "But still, it's a bit of a disappointment."

As on other opening days, the fair drew a heavy turnout Friday from folks who live close by, partly because it follows a cattle drive and parade through town. And admission is free for the first morning, with the suggested donation of food for charity.

Morning showers didn't faze Jones and her mom a bit. They live here. They know about the weather. And there was lots they wanted to see indoors.

"This is normal," said Jones. "It seems it's always either insanely hot or it's raining."

Not everything here is the same as last year, and fair officials hope a couple of new offerings will be big hits.

One is Luminasia, where 50,000 bulbs, representing a lantern-making tradition, illuminate a depicted ferryboat, tulip fields, totem poles and other scenery.

Beckoning thrill-seekers is Rainier Rush, a 60-foot-tall roller coaster that turns riders upside down.

Friday's drizzle sent many visitors to indoor displays, such as the barns of cattle, donkeys, yaks, goat, sheep, zebras and other animals.

Justine Wasley, of Roy, Pierce County, who was grooming alpacas, said, "They like to be nosy and sniff little kids' faces."

Wasley had built an interactive display with information bits about alpacas, including the fact that their wool comes in 22 natural colors and can easily be dyed into other shades.

The amusement-park rides were slow to get started Friday, not just because of the showers but because some needed "tooling up" after Thursday's drenching rain, said fair spokeswoman Karen LaFlamme.

As the fair opened, among the first lines to form was at BigFoot Java, where manager Reina Young had 12 pots of hot coffee ready.

Another favorite of the early crowd were the half-dozen locations where Fisher scones were baked, buttered and spread with raspberry jam.

At $1.25, a scone is among the least expensive items at the fair. They're a favorite of Henry Machen, a Puyallup resident who's been coming here for half a century.

But, he adds, "I remember when they were a nickel."

The fair's new name isn't meant to convey any connection with state government, said LaFlamme. It promotes the fact that this is the largest fair in the state -- a distinction that may help draw name acts.

The event was created in 1900 as the Valley Fair, was later renamed the Western Washington Fair and since 1976 had marketed itself as the Puyallup Fair. The fair's promotional material still uses the catchphrase, "Do the Puyallup."