King County Fair coming to Enumclaw July 7-10; Universal Fairs will put on the show

The rumor of a 2011 King County Fair became reality Monday night.

Members of the Enumclaw City Council unanimously approved a contract with the Tennessee-based Universal Fairs, allowing a four-day event on the Enumclaw Expo Center grounds beginning July 7.

Talk of an independently-operated fair first surfaced in February. Little has been said in public since then, but in was indicated Monday that much has been done behind the scenes. Kristen Damazio, who promotes and manages the Expo Center, said Universal Fairs has been working through the spring, using a good-size staff to help put all the pieces in place. It was noted a carnival has already been lined up, even though a contract had not been signed between the city and Universal.

This latest development is just the most recent in a years-long cycle of fair comings and goings. King County spent more than a century as the proud operator of the fair, touting it as the oldest county fair west of the Mississippi. It was launched in 1863. Things started going bad several years ago, however, and attendance dwindled to a fraction of its all-time high. The city of Enumclaw eventually put on the fair, with the county's financial help, in 2009. Last year, Enumclaw offered a Spring Expo, offering small crowds some traditional fair elements.

"I never thought I would say the words 'King County Fair' again," Mayor Liz Reynolds said Monday night, introducing the agenda item necessary for Universal Fairs to come to town.

The city quickly issued a press release which noted Universal's desire to provide a traditional fair experience. The 2011 edition of the fair "will showcase its historic roots with carnival rides, midway games, entertainment, 4-H, exhibitors, delicious food and so much more," the release said.

Universal Fairs is new to the Northwest and Damazio was asked if she had done her homework. She told the council she had spoken to people in four cities where Universal operates "and they had nothing but great things to say," Damazio reported. "They were very positive."

Talk then turned to finances, a crucial factor since members of the council have spent time lately looking at the long-term financial health of the Expo Center operation.

Damazio said Universal Fairs will pay the city $18,000, plus a 10 percent share on all concession sales. She figures the city will spend about $6,000 providing labor and staff time, thus netting about $12,000. The figure could jump to $15,000, she said, if concession sales are strong.

The contract calls for Universal to pay the city $9,000 upon execution of the contract, another $9,000 by June 1 and the remainder by mid-August.

It was noted the city had initially asked for $25,000, but backed off on that figure to help assure a successful venture. It was noted both sides are hoping to bring the fair back in  2012, but nothing will be decided until after this year's event.

In other action during the May 9 meeting, council members:

• debated the potential city purchase of the long-vacant lot at the corner of Cole Street and Myrtle Avenue.

City administration had negotiated a price of $295,000 and put the matter before council, with the mayor pitching the idea of a downtown gathering place where movies could be shown outdoors, a farmers market could be established or people could simply sit and relax. Some council members expressed concern about the price tag and others noted a grassy park already exists just a couple of blocks away. Eventually, the council voted to visit the issue again during the May 23 meeting.

• listened as Public Works Director Chris Searcy reviewed the latest inspection by the state's Utilities and Transportation Commission. The city received a clean bill of health, Searcy said.

"There were no violations or concerns regarding pipeline safety," Searcy said. "It went very smoothly.

Years ago, the city was guilty of numerous violation, prompting the UTC to issue a press release stating the city was potentially in line for fines totaling millions of dollars. The city dealt with the issues and dodged all fines

• learned the still-new dental van

• heard Mayor Liz Reynolds announce Enumclaw again received the Tree City USA designation.


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