King County Fair opens tomorrow

With most of their planning and preparation in the rear-view mirror, King County Fair organizers are ready for takeoff.

The 155th annual edition of the family-friendly fair opens tomorrow, Thursday, and runs through Sunday on the grounds of the Enumclaw Expo Center. It’s being managed for the third year by the Enumclaw Expo and Events Association, a nonprofit group that oversees the 72-acre grounds and all it encompasses.

Here’s a quick look at details fairgoers may want to know before heading out.

Hours

The fair gates will open at 10 a.m. each of the four days. Closing time will be 10 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; the gates will close at 6 p.m. Sunday.

Cost

General admission is $10, but presale tickets are available at Safeway stores for $7. Military personnel, with ID, also get in for $7. Anyone 65 and older can enter for $1 if they arrive between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. and kids younger than 5 are always admitted free. All concerts on the grounds are free with admission, but, as always, carnival ride tickets and wristbands are sold separately.

Also requiring a separate ticket is the NW Truck Pull competition. Back for a second year, it’s 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.

There’s a $5 fee to park in one of the Expo Center lots.

Attractions

Adding a couple of new wrinkles this year, fair organizers have booked the Wenatchee Youth Circus and motorcycle stunt rider Robert Haslam. They will entertain in addition to returnees like hypnotist Jerry Harris, Cook’s Racing Pigs and the Pirates of the Plateau. Good crowds are again expected for the K-9 Kings Flying Dog Show, Professor Bamboozle and the Legendary Longhorns exhibit.

The Wenatchee Youth Circus will occupy a large piece of Expo Center lawn and feature middle school and high school students displaying skills in aerial arts, wire and fire acts, flying trapeze, acting, singing, clowning and more. The group tours the Northwest each summer, performing nearly every weekend.

Also on the entertainment schedule is Eric Haines, who brings his one-man show to the fair. According to his website, Haines offers up “an act that is part rock concert, part comedy show and part twisted, bizarre circus.”

Music

Fair folks succeeded in their goal to bring entertainers appealing to a wide range of tastes.

The fair’s main stage will host an eclectic lineup that includes the Linda Myers Band (rhythm and blues, soul and funk) on Thursday, the Herding Cats Band (rock ’n’ roll covers) on Friday and Nearly Dan (a Steely Dan tribute band) on Saturday.

Other acts include Stephanie Anne Johnson, an R&B/soul singer; danceable music by the Back Porch Apostles; Jessica Lynne, a country act; and Western swing music by the Oregon Valley Boys. There’s even a polka band, The Smilin’ Scandinavians.

And there’s more

It wouldn’t be a fair without carnival rides and a midway with games testing both skill and luck. The same goes for food and this year’s fair will host favorites from years past, along with a couple of new vendors. Commercial vendors will occupy main buildings on the grounds and barns will again be filled with kids and livestock.

A bit of history

The Enumclaw Expo and Events Association is looking to build on the momentum it has created since taking the fair reins.

Long operated by King County, the fair had nearly been mandated out of existence by the time the county turned the fairgrounds over to the city of Enumclaw. The fair eventually was contracted to an out-of-state operator and attendance dwindled, along with enthusiasm and public interest.

The EEEA, since taking control, has seen attendance triple. Finances are healthier, too.

The fair boasts an impressive and often-told history. It is the oldest continuously-operating fair west of the Mississippi, having made its debut during the Abraham Lincoln presidential administration.

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