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Spring awakening

Family fun at the fairgrounds

“DockDogs are braver than your dog.” Photo credit: Spring Fair

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Everyone knows the end of August brings three weeks of entertainment to the Washington State fairgrounds, which is among the largest state fairs in the country. Less well known, perhaps, is the shorter Spring Fair, which has arrived every April since 1990. It may be less expansive than its older sibling, but the Spring Fair still packs a plethora of folksy entertainment into one four-day weekend.

Organizers expect about 100,000 guests, though they admit attendance is, in the words of Public Relations Manager Stacy Howard, "completely weather-dependent."

The Puyallup School District offers its 13th annual "Diversity Celebration" in Holiday Hall, for example, but the whole fair is a cornucopia of diversity. The expected barnyard critters will be on display, of course, but so will kangaroos, llamas, wallabies, wallaroos (one of three mid-sized species of pouched mammals -- don't worry, we just learned that, too), "Brad's World Reptiles" and a menagerie of animal infants.

Endearingly excitable gardening expert Ciscoe Morris will be on-hand for a 1 p.m. presentation Sunday. Pigs will race for Oreo cookies, and stunt dogs demonstrate quasi-safe pool-diving techniques off a 40-foot runway. Kids will learn more about parrots from their recognized experts: pirates. (Yarr.) And don't leave early! A musical Fireworks Spectacular explodes over the fairgrounds around 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday night.

But what about the food? Skip breakfast and pack Tums, because all the most popular stands will be open.

"All of the staples are always here," promised Howard, "the Sales Family Krusty Pups and (Fisher) scones and (Duris) elephant ears ... and Marcoe's caramel apples, always here."

Add Sunday's culinary "Fiesta Mexicana," backed by electrifying Latin musicians, plus the second annual barbecue competition Saturday and Sunday, and no one is likely to drive home hungry.

"We're the biggest party in the state," boasted Howard, but in spring, "the focus is a little bit different. It's much more family-oriented."

Don't miss the Romani-themed Cirque Ma'Ceo Equestrian Stunt Show (for separate admission) or the revved-up car carnage of Motorsport Mayhem. On Friday, active, retired or Reserve military folks and dependents get in free with valid military ID. That's also the day Darryl Worley performs a free "Country 98.9 Showcase Concert" at 7 p.m. Worley topped the Billboard Hot Country chart three times, including a seven-week reign for the 9/11-themed "Have You Forgotten?" in 2003.

"This is probably the most stressful time of the year for us," admitted Howard, "because we're planning both fairs."

Luckily, many staffers return year after year.

"Think of somebody planning a wedding," she said. "That's one day. People usually spend about a year planning a wedding. We have a 20-day fair in the fall and a four-day fair in the spring, so it keeps us incredibly busy year-round."

Washington State Spring Fair, 2-10 p.m., Thursday, April 19; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, April 20 and 21; and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday, April 22, 110 9th Ave. SW, Puyallup, free-$12, parking free-$20, 253.841.5045,

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