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New approach for old-fashioned fair

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By Kevin Hanson

The Courier-Herald

A fresh approach to old-fashioned fun is being promised for this year's edition of the King County Fair.

Organizers are busily preparing for the 142nd edition of the fair, which kicks off a five-day run July 21 at the King County Fairgrounds in Enumclaw.

Those in charge are hoping some reduced prices and increased attractions will address complaints heard in recent years, grumbles that have resulted in decreased attendance. Comments were solicited from those attending last year's fair and, following the event, opinions were taken from vendors. Additionally, county personnel hosted an open house in Enumclaw to gather citizen input.

From all indications, the various concerns were taken to heart. Admission prices have been slashed, high-priced concerts are history and free entertainment has been increased.

The overriding concern was "it was just too darned expensive to go to the King County Fair," said David Marks, now in his second year at the helm of the fairgrounds. That opinion is spelled out in black and white, on a chart Marks keeps on his office wall. Fair attendance topped 114,000 in 1998, but slipped to less than 65,000 a year ago.

"We just needed to stop that downward spiral," Marks said. "We needed to think of some radical things we could do to reinvigorate the fair."

The first step was to realize what the King County Fair means to people. "We're one of the last old-time country fairs," Marks said. "That has to be our niche." Those looking for big-time productions can easily attend the nearby Puyallup fair or make the trip to Monroe, he explained.

Speaking of the fair's longtime audience, Marks said, "They loved the old-fashioned nature of the King County Fair, and the traditional activities that make it special - things like the Critter Crowning and King Pickle contests. That's what makes this fair truly unique."

As a result, Marks said, organizers have taken steps to celebrate the popular elements of the oldest fair west of the Mississippi - summer concerts, carnival rides, farm animals, rodeo, logging show, blue-ribbon competitions, green grass and hot-buttered scones with jelly. But they're also offer something new - picnic games, a more user-friendly fair layout and food court, a new entertainment stage, roving entertainers, a circus and reduced concert and entry fees.

The discounts are highlighted by the July 21 "Dollar Daze," which features $1 admission, $1 parking, $1 carnival rides and a $1 concert. On other days, general admission prices are $6 (down from $8 last year) for adults, $3 for children ages 6-15, and $4 for seniors 62 and older. A Sunday family pass ($12 for one adult and three children or two adults and two children) and Friday military discount ($5 per adult, $2 per child) also will be available.

Daily highlights of the five-day fair include:

July 21

€ Concert: Chris Cagle, with Buckley's Blaine Larsen as the opening act ($1, 8 p.m.)

€ Enumclaw Courier-Herald Dollar Daze: $1 admission, $1 parking, $1 concert; $1 carnival rides, $1 selected vendor items.

€ Doll making activity (free, all day)

€ Opening ceremony: pickle look-alike contest and critter crowning (noon)

July 22

€ Concert: Rachael Lampa ($5 and $7, 8 p.m.)

€ Unlimited rides for $20 each session, (11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 6 to 10 p.m.)

July 23

€ KMPS Concert: Restless Heart reunion (free, 8 p.m.)

€ National Professional Rodeo Association (NPRA) rodeo ($3, 6 p.m.)

€ $1 off admission for military personnel and dependents (must show a military ID)

€ Picnic games: pie eating, three-leg races, water balloon toss, kids crafts

July 24

€ Concert: Hit Explosion & RockARaoke (free, 6 p.m.-10 p.m.)

€ Concert: Nashville Acoustic Café (free, 3 p.m.)

€ NPRA Rodeo ($3, 6 p.m.)

€ Loggers Tournament (free, 1 p.m.)

€ Picnic games: pie eating, three-leg races, water balloon toss, kids crafts

July 25

€ Concert: La Onda ($5 and $7, 5 p.m.)

€ Loggers Tournament (free, 1 p.m.)

€ Arm wrestling competition (open to all ages)

€ Picnic games: pie eating, three-leg races, water balloon toss, kids crafts

Hours for the fair are: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. July 21 and 22; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 23 and 24; and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. July 25.

Kevin Hanson can be reached at khanson@courierherald.com

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