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What's new at the Washington State Fair?

Photo credit: Patrick Hagerty

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I've lived in Washington for seven short years now, but yes, I have made the pilgrimage to Puyallup to attend the state fair. It's a rite of local citizenship. My wife, an immigrant from that far-off land called Wichita, impressed upon me an obligation to sample Fisher scones with raspberry jam. Having downed those, she said, I was free to regard myself as a local. Fisher's been an institution at the fair since 1915 and will soon sell its hundred millionth scone. When it comes to good eats, trust me, I'm all for tradition; but on the other hand, new jack yummy never hurt anyone. So when I had the opportunity to speak with Karen LaFlamme, PR representative for the fair, I got right to the point: What have you got for the hungry and brave?

"An ear of corn that's dipped in batter and deep-fried like a corndog, so it really is a corndog," she answered immediately. Go on, I exhorted. "Sharkey's (has) a lobster corndog, so we're big on corndogs this year." Wait, wait, wait, I said. Let's not gloss over what you just said: lobster corndog. Elucidate? "It's a breaded lobster mixture on a stick, that's deep-fried and then, when they pull it out, they serve it with lemon aioli. So it's an upscale corndog, really." There was a pause in our conversation while angels sang and Guy Fieri threw his hands up in defeat.

"They have two other items at Sharky's Fish Fry that are new," LaFlamme continued. "One is Cap'n Crunch-breaded shrimp on a stick, with sweet Sriracha sauce." Uh-huh. "The other is lobster French fries with chipotle aioli." Well, let me tell you this, Dr. Cardiologist: you will pry my lobster French fries with chipotle aioli from my cold, dead hands! Having filled up on fried carbs and decapods, what better moment to hop on a stomach-spinning thrill ride? "Evolution and Rock Star are new for adults. The Phoenix Wheel is fun because it'll be in SillyVille, which is our ‘smaller guest' area. Kids 32 inches or higher can ride on this, and it's 65 feet high but they can ride with their parents. That makes it really nice. Before, the kids' rides were for kids only; this is one where parents can go with them." Evolution is an Italian-made thrill ride for which ten cars are spun in the air, while Rock Star is a flying platform that drops adventurous guests from a peak height of 55 feet.

After a deep-fried ear of corn, this ride is all your stomach might be able to handle. Photo credit: Patrick Hagerty

To be honest, I got so excited talking about two of my passions, namely high-G amusement park rides and, well, stuffing my face, I forgot to ask LaFlamme about one of this year's highlights. Star Trek: The Exhibition is a traveling interactive display featuring the U.S.S. Enterprise, its iconic bridge command chair, costume pieces, and thousands of props including phasers and vintage communicators. (Our younger readers may know them as flip phones.) We did geek out over Beer Haven, a tap room on wheels with many of this area's favorite craft brews. The concert series will feature Iggy Azalea, Jason Derulo, Duran Duran, Heart, Pitbull, "Weird Al" Yankovic, and many others. "Keith Urban is always a hit," LaFlamme gushes. "He was slated to perform last year, and his wife's father passed away suddenly so he had to cancel. But he was nice enough to reschedule at the time for this year, so I have a feeling that'll be another packed house."

Indeed! - packed, in my case at least, with lobster French fries and beer.

Washington State Fair, Sept. 11-27, 110 9th Ave. SW, Puyallup, gate admission: up to $12.50; Kids 5 and younger free, 253.272.3663

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