Washington State Fair: A Rich History and a Community Resource
The Washington State Fair, formerly the Puyallup Fair, has become the largest single attraction held annually in Washington state.
It continues to be ranked among the top ten largest fairs in the United States, offering an array of attractions, such as agricultural and pastoral displays, amusement rides, and concert series.
The fairgrounds, situated in Puyallup, 35 miles south of Seattle and 10 miles east of Tacoma near Mount Rainier, cover an area of 160 acres with buildings and land valued at more than $54 million.
The availability of the grounds for rent year-round made it an ideal location for hosting various events, from cultural and sporting events to corporate gatherings and social gatherings.
The Fair’s Rich History
The fair started under the name “Puyallup Valley Fair,” with the first event on October 4–6, 1900. It was later renamed “The Western Washington Fair” in 1913, but it remained primarily known as the “Puyallup Fair” until the early 1980s.
The Washington State Fair venue, formerly known as “The Puyallup Fair and Events Center,” has a rich history. Fair has undergone several name changes, with the most recent change in 2013 when it received its current name, the “Washington State Fair.”
During World War II, the fair took a hiatus, with the fairgrounds closing after the 1941 event. The grounds were occupied by the army, which established Camp Harmony, a temporary assembly center for Japanese Americans within the system of concentration camps.
Over 7,000 Japanese Americans from the Seattle-Tacoma area and Alaska were confined in converted horse stables and barracks constructed on adjacent parking lots, the racing track, and the grandstand.
The U.S. Army 943rd Signal Service Battalion utilized the fairgrounds as a base of operations until they were transferred to Fort Lewis. The fairgrounds remained closed until 1946 when the fair set an attendance record of 100,000 people on opening day.
Despite the name changes, the marketing tagline “Do the Puyallup” has remained, and many locals still refer to the fair by its previous name.
The fair has become a beloved tradition for Washingtonians, offering yearly entertainment and attractions. However, the fair’s past serves as a reminder of the injustices suffered by Japanese Americans during World War II.
The fairgrounds have transformed into a vital resource for the community, offering an array of seasonal festivals and events.
From the classic Victorian Country Christmas to adrenaline-fueled races, lively concerts, dazzling car shows, and action-packed sporting expositions like the International Sportsman’s Exposition, the fairgrounds have become the ultimate destination for entertainment and fun.
The site employs 55 year-round staff members, and over 7,500 employees are hired each September during the fair.
In 2020, the fair’s 21-day event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was the fair’s first edition to be canceled since World War II.
However, the fair returned in 2021 with masking requirements and limited capacity, drawing 816,000 total attendees, a 20 percent decrease from previous years.
Despite the attendance decrease, the fair remained a significant attraction for the state, drawing in people from all over the region.
The Future of the Fair
Looking forward, the Washington State Fair continues to be a significant event for the state of Washington. With over a century of history and tradition, the fair continues to evolve, offering visitors new attractions, exhibits, and experiences.
As a community resource, the fairgrounds have become a hub for various events throughout the year, bringing people together for celebrations and gatherings.
With its rich history and a bright future ahead, the Washington State Fair remains a beloved institution for the state and its people.
Attractions and Exhibits
The Washington State Fair is known for its vast attractions and exhibits, which draw in visitors from all over the region. In addition, the fair is renowned for its agricultural and pastoral displays, showcasing the best of Washington’s farm produce, livestock, and agriculture.
Visitors can witness live demonstrations of animal husbandry, farm machinery, and food processing. The fair also offers various amusement rides, games, and entertainment, featuring traditional carnival rides, roller coasters, and attractions.
One of the most popular exhibits at the fair is the creative ones, which feature arts and crafts, floral arrangements, photography, and different crafts and collections. In addition, visitors can witness some of the best amateur and professional talent from across the state and even participate in workshops and competitions.