Expo Center readies for surge of fairgoers

Looking to continue an upward surge in both attendance and enthusiasm, boosters are preparing to launch the 2016 edition of the King County Fair.

Under new management

Looking to continue an upward surge in both attendance and enthusiasm, boosters are preparing to launch the 2016 edition of the King County Fair.

Getting ready for its 154th annual edition, the four-day show continues its billing as the oldest continuous fair west of the Mississippi River.

This year’s show opens for customers Thursday, July 14, on the grounds of the Enumclaw Expo Center and wraps up July 17.

There’s still something of a “new” feel to the fair, as this is just the second year it has been operated by the nonprofit Enumclaw Expo and Events Association. The group holds to its promise of returning traditional elements to the fair while adding elements to give visitors more enjoyment for their money.

Last year, the EEEF began a turnaround, breathing new life into an attraction that boasts a long and proud history – despite a rocky stretch in which King County nearly mandated the fair into extinction. After the county handed the fair to the city, it was operated for several years by Tennessee-based Universal Fairs, which saw attendance slip to just 7,600 in 2014.

A year ago, under new and local management, attendance more than doubled to 15,700 and revenues also were healthier.

Now, the task is to build on that momentum, improving a fair that first greeted visitors during the Abraham Lincoln administration. That daunting has landed in the laps of Expo Center Director Scott Gray and his small staff.

Aside from offering carnival attractions like rides and games, fair organizers are making an effort to provide ongoing entertainment on the fairgrounds. This year, that includes things like pig races, the K9 Kings Flying Dog Show, a featured display of large cats and a rock-climbing wall.

Also new this year is the “Claw for Power Pull Fest,” a high-revving event in which powerful pickups and drivers compete to see who can pull the greatest weight. There’s a separate admission, but ticket-holders can also enter the fair.

Inside the fair buildings, there’s good news as all concession spaces have been filled. There’s a long list of merchants offering all types of goods and services, from mom-and-pop operations to governmental entities.

Among the fair requirements are abundant offerings of food and local organizers have made an emphasis of courting new and varied vendors. This year’s list includes barbecue, Greek and tropical fare in addition to things like turkey legs, pretzels and falafel. And that’s in addition to tradition fair food like burgers, corn dogs, fries and nachos.

The fair will open at 10 a.m. all four days. Closing times are 10 p.m. July 14 and July 15, midnight on the Saturday of the fair and 6 p.m. on the final day.

There will be two entertainment stages offering entertainment. Featured performers include:

• Geoffrey Castle: he takes the stage at 7:30 p.m. July 15 with his electric, six-string violin. In addition to performing rock arrangements of tunes that cross all genres, the show includes a back-up band, the Seattle Irish Dance Company and special guests.

• Megs McLean: she will perform the evening of July 14, bringing a unique style that is described as a blend of country and Seattle grunge.

• Jerry Harris: a hypnotist who has long toured the nation, he will perform two shows each day of the fair.

• Rust on the Rails: taking the stage at 8 p.m. July 16 will be this four-man, Seattle-based that boasts American/Aussie roots blending electric guitar with didgeridoo.

Pricing and specials

• July 14 is KMPS Family Day: up to two youngsters, ages 5 to 15, will be admitted for $1 with each adult ticket purchased.

• July 17 is KCLS Day: kids younger than 18 get in free by showing a King County library card (must be accompanied by an adult).

• Tickets at the gate will sell for $7 but advance tickets will be available for $5 at area Safeway stores.

• Children younger that 5 will be admitted free at any time.

• Military members and anyone 65 or older will get in for $5.

• Available now – sold only at the Expo Center office – is an “unlimited rides” pass that can be used any day of the fair. The cost is $20.

• Parking is $5.

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