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Time to do the Puyallup!

Deep-fried fun at the Washington State Fair

Photo credit: Christian Carvajal

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The Washington State Fair, at first called simply the Valley Fair, began in June 1900 when Puyallup River-valley businessmen and farmers united to form the Valley Fair Association. Their goal was to highlight local agribusiness. When the fair opened in early October of that year, it went up west of Pioneer Park. Admission cost a dollar per family. One tent highlighted "ladies' work." The fair moved to its present-day location in 1902. The advent of car travel brought more families to Puyallup Valley, so in 1905 the fair's duration doubled to six days. Some say the true blossoming of the fair took place in 1915, when fairgoers had their first taste of Fisher scones. Another highlight of those first decades was Earl Douglas' 1923 sponsorship of a horse-drawn carousel packing a Wurlitzer organ. Now appraised at $1.3 million, the carousel has been fully restored and ensconced near Exhibition Hall.

The fair's saddest milestone arrived with the chaos of World War II. In May 1942, an Army unit moved in and surrounded the fairgrounds with guard towers and barbed-wire fences. Some 7,390 Japanese-Americans were imprisoned in the facility, which was now euphemized as the "Puyallup Assembly Center" and, less officially, "Camp Harmony." The fair reopened in 1946 with a then-record attendance of 100,000 visitors in a single day. This year, Sept. 2, the fair honored its wartime detainees with a 75th-anniversary ceremony of remembrance.

Not only was 2011 the 100th anniversary of Fisher scones at the fair, it was also the year Fisher served its 100 millionth scone, slathered, no doubt, with honey butter and raspberry jam. Nowadays, more than a million people attend the fair each year, and boy, do they get hungry. According to Seattle Refined, guests plow through about 115,000 Krusty Pup corn dogs, 62,000 ears of corn, 12,000 turkey legs and 800 pounds of bacon. On our recent visit, we bypassed scones and Branks BBQ -- reluctantly -- to try some less-lauded but equally tasty fare. Consider, for example, Ben Vrieze's stand near the Gold Gate, which serves deep-fried hand pies called fleischkuechle. Pronounced "flish-KOOSH-lay," both the pie and its name are a mouthful. Imagine a Swedish meatball smashed into flaky, golden fry bread. Vrieze's also makes fruity dessert versions. That stand is right around the corner from another offering Dole Whips, the creamy, pineapple smoothies once found exclusively in Disney theme parks. They're the perfect refreshers on hot September afternoons.

The bustling midway added a Circus Jumbo kiddie ride for 2017. Also new this year are a superhero photo booth and giant-insect exhibit. Columbia Bank's concert series features Melissa Etheridge; Masters of Illusion; the Beach Boys; the I Love the '90s tour; Hank Williams, Jr.; Modest Mouse; Earth, Wind & Fire and Jason Aldean among others.

Washington State Fair, open daily except Tuesdays, through Sept. 24, 110 9th Ave. SW, Puyallup, adults $14, students and seniors $10.50,

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