The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

September 28, 2010

I Guess you Can Have a Cow, Man: The Puyallup Fair

Filed under: Wanderings — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 2:32 am

Although I have now lived in the Seattle area for nearly sixteen years now, I have never been to the Puyallup Fair until this past Saturday, even though to hear the way some people put it you’re practically required by law to attend the thing.  Although officially the Puyallup Fair isn’t officially Washington’s State Fair (the Evergreen State Fair happens in late August up in Monroe, and is a much smaller affair,) it is the largest annual event held in Washington State, with an attendance of nearly 1.2 million in 2009.   And I’m pretty sure a rather significant portion of those 1.2 million people were sitting out in front of us in bumper-to-bumper traffic on State Route 167 as me and a few friends very slowly made our way to the Fair this Saturday.   It ultimately took over three hours to make it from my friends’ house in Kirkland to the front gate at the Fairgrounds, a drive that should normally be somewhere around 45 minutes on a good day (or at least a day when there aren’t 50,000 people headed for the same place you’re headed to for some inexplicable reason.)  The fact that we ultimately ended up parked 1.6 miles away probably didn’t help any (and yes, I checked this using the Google My Tracks app on my phone, which actually works quite well for that type of thing as long as it doesn’t think you’re drunk, but that’s another story.)  Of course, as could be expected with that many people, it was quite crowded, and the sample seen above was pretty representative of the typical crowds encountered during our relatively brief stay at the fair.

That wasn’t to say that it was completely impossible to get around.  And even if you had to wade through roughly half a zillion people to get anywhere, there were still quite a few things to see and do.  If we had seen or done any of them I might even have something interesting to write here, but to be perfectly honest, I was pretty much there for two things:  Cows (in spite of lacking any particular reason for this)  and to find some of the Doom-on-a-Stick you keep hearing about at these things.  Anything else was just gravy.  After the jump, a few highlights (such as they are) from the visit.

For a lot of people, the Fair involves competition, and it seemed like everywhere you looked, there was something that had a ribbon on it.  In fact, the Best Overall Exhibit ribbon (awarded to the Hobby Hall) was apparently important enough to warrant its own fancy display.  Come to think of it, doesn’t “Best Overall Exhibit” seem like just a bit of a vague category to be handing out ribbons for in the first place?  After all, it’s not like they’re handing out awards for the “Best Hall of Cheap Plugs” or “Best Puke Inducer” or anything like that.  Actually, now that I think of it, I may have just missed those…

Much of the Hobby Hall was occupied by displays of various collections of things, including a few that I have involved myself with over the years that continue to occupy more than their fair share of my limited closet space.  Theoretically, the stuff is too valuable to just throw out, but also takes up way more space than I really have room for. 

Then there’s Beanie Babies.  Back during the short-lived fad I had, um, friends (yeah, that’s it) who spent way too much money on the things, only to have the things turn out to be basically worthless (seriously, I think they sell these things by the pound nowdays.)    On second thought, just forget that I ever brought this subject up, OK? 

I think there’s some law out there requiring some amount of agricultural content at these things, and the showpieces of the plant displays were these giant murals made out of various fruits and vegetables.  I’m not quite sure how you’re supposed to get all that stuff to last eighteen days without rotting, but I suppose they manage it somehow.  I suspect that some raiding of the produce aisle at the nearby Safeway is involved.

Or if you prefer to get your vegetable exhibits in all at once there’s the giant pumpkins, weighing in at close to 1,000 pounds apiece.  Somehow, I get the suspicion that growing a 974 pound pumpkin in my parents’ backyard (with its steep terraces) would probably be a lot more likely to get me in trouble than it would be to get me a ribbon.

For slightly more edible items (in this case, VERY slightly more edible) there were food stands all over the place, offering everything from the usual classics like curly fries and funnel cakes, right up to the cutting edge of artery-clogging technology.  I’m pretty sure this stand is supposed to be plastered in warning labels, but none seemed to be in evidence.  Nor was it evident that they would have done a blasted bit of good anyway, as this stand appeared to have one of the longest lines I saw all day. 

Even the Doom-on-a-Stick seems to be missing the stick these days,  as was evident from these corn dog nuggets.  I probably could have found a more proper corn dog somewhere if I had been just a little more ambitious, but I’ll just assume that in this case the stick is virtual and call it good.

If you’re looking for slightly less refined versions of hot dogs, they had those too. 

But mostly in the livestock barns they had sheep.  LOTS of sheep.  In fact, if you tried to count the sheep you’d probably be napping on the floor of the barn by the time you got through the second row, insomnia notwithstanding.

And yes, they had cows too, but unlike the three dozen sheep you probably tripped over while you were trying to find a funnel cake, you actually had to go look for cows to find any of them.

There was plenty more than this, but I didn’t really get to see too much of it since we were a bit short on time, had a 1.6 mile walk back to the car, and really weren’t all that interested in paying the slightly exorbitant ticket prices to ride the rides on the Pukeway by the time we got through the barns.  Nonetheless, my cow quota for the rest of the year has definitely been fulfilled, as has my sheep quota for the next decade or so.  That said, I’ll definitely consider going back to the Fair at some point, but I think I’ll be doing it on a Thursday next time, OK?

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