THE EVOLUTION OF THE WASHINGTON State Fair
A LITTLE HISTORY
Back in 1900 a group of farmers and business owners joined together to create a place where they could showcase animals and agriculture from the rich Puyallup Valley. They called it the Valley Fair, and the October 4-6, 1900 Fair was a success in downtown Puyallup that very first year. The Valley Fair brought crowds from around the area, and even as far away as Tacoma.What started out as a three-day event has grown over the years to 21 days (or as we like to call it, the biggest party in the state) held in September. It traditionally kicked off the Friday following Labor Day.
Even from the beginning three core values made up the Fair: Education, Family, and Fun. This foundation continues today, though many attractions and activities have changed to be relevant with the times. While agriculture, animal exhibits, and women’s handiwork were highlights in the early days, horse racing quickly became an attraction, and stayed that way until 1977. Over the years, many guests came from near and far to see their favorite horse win at the Fair.
By 1913 the Fair was attracting guests throughout western Washington, and the association changed the name to the Western Washington Fair. During this decade, special attractions included horse racing, vaudeville acts, a three-ring circus, and fiddler acts. It was in 1915 that Fair guests tasted Fisher Scones for the first time, a favorite Fair food staple to this day.
Over the years, the Western Washington Fair continued to grow in attendance and in acreage, though it went into hiatus during WWII. The following year brought record crowds. Attractions continued to change, and by the 1966 big name entertainment became part of the Fair, with a dazzling group of young men called The Osmond Brothers performing.
1976 brought with it a new slogan, “Do the Puyallup” to match the new name, the Puyallup Fair. “Do the Puyallup” became such a household phrase that asking someone if they planned to “Do the Puyallup” was shorthand for attending the Puyallup Fair. Thanks to modern day television and radio, the jingle and the phrase are common today. You’re humming the jingle right now, aren’t you?!
THE THOUGHT BEHIND THE NAME CHANGE
The decision to change the name from the Puyallup Fair to the Washington State Fair didn’t happen overnight. In fact, the board of directors took years of due diligence to gather information to see if a name change should be made. They hired firms to conduct market research and host focus groups, weighing in on Fair participants, guests, those who attended every few years, and those who had never attended the Fair. Then, they analyzed the pros and cons of a name change.
While a large group of people thought it was already the unofficial state fair, newcomers thought it was a neighboring town fair. They didn’t realize that it draws over one million guests during 17 days, and is one of the largest fairs in the country. When told that the Puyallup Fair also hosted the state fairs for 4-H and FFA, they understood, as the biggest fair in their home state also hosted the youth fairs, and was recognized as the State Fair, something they enjoyed attending.
After several years of research, focus groups and working with different branding and advertising agencies, the new name, Washington State Fair was introduced to guests during the 2012 Puyallup Fair. The official new name was made to better represent who we are and to stay relevant, while giving a nod to the rich history of the Puyallup Fair. Above all, transitioning to the new name will help to maintain and grow the Fair for future generations.
DOESN’T WASHINGTON ALREADY HAVE A STATE FAIR?
In 1892 the Washington Legislation made a decision for the State Agricultural Fair to be held in Yakima. A year later they approved allocating $10,000 for work on the buildings, and the fair got underway. In 1930 and 1931 no fair was held due to the Legislation’s refusal to approve an operating budget. It resumed in 1932 for five years, but was not considered a success. The Legislature abolished the State Fair after that time.
The Washington State Fair is a private, not-for-profit corporation. As in the past, the Fair does not receive governmental monies to operate. While most entertainment/educational venues are tax-supported, the Fair is self-sustaining. In 2012 we paid over $1.1 million in property taxes to Pierce County, and nearly $850,000 to the City of Puyallup in admission taxes for both of our fairs, emergency services, and the business license. As a non-profit, the Fair reinvests its gains in maintaining its facilities and expanding its programs.
WHAT ABOUT “DO THE PUYALLUP”?
We love the “Do the Puyallup” song and slogan, just like many of you! You have no doubt seen the line, “Do the Puyallup” with our new Washington State Fair logo. You’ll also hear the song on site at the Washington State Fair, and where you least expect it. “. . . So don’t be late, do the Puyallup!”
WHAT’S NOT CHANGING
While the name may change, the Washington State Fair will continue to offer the traditional favorites that have made it a family favorite for generations. The foundation of the Fair when it first started focused on animals, agriculture, and education, and those elements remain strong features today.
The Fair mission is: We provide Washington’s home to gather and celebrate for generations to come.
This was the mission when we were the Puyallup Fair, and it will stay the mission as the Washington State Fair. We want to both preserve and expand upon the tradition of the Fair, remaining relevant for future generations.
Our core values, which are education, family and fun, are also firmly in place. We will continue to provide a quality hands-on experience showcasing the agriculture, the arts and the marketplace. We promote creativity and innovation while honoring our traditions. You’ll still see that we set the stage for learning and discovery in fun and unexpected ways. When it comes to family, we value all guests and Fair family and treat them with respect. We honor our Fair founders by encouraging people of all ages and backgrounds to come together to celebrate and make wonderful memories at a good value in a safe environment. It is our goal to make each and every guest who comes through our gates feel welcome. The Fair is a place to escape the ordinary, be entertained, experience the joy of lasting memories, feel the excitement of discovery and enjoy thrills, good food, and great people.
SOME GREAT CHANGES AHEAD
Along with the name change to Washington State Fair, you’ll find that we are changing with technology to get information to you in a variety of ways. We were pleased to launch a brand new website and mobile app in July 2013, making it easier to navigate and gather valuable information. Ever wonder where you parked your car when you are getting ready to leave? With our mobile app you can pin your car, and your iPhone will guide you right to its parking spot. Want to look at the schedule of events or map of the Fair? Your smartphone can bring you up to date in the blink of an eye. Way-finding is so much easier in today’s world of technology.
You’ll find that the exterior of many buildings have a fresh coat of paint, the Gold Gate has a new open and welcoming look in Phase One of our ongoing renovations, and some of the departments have moved to better complement their topics. For example, both the Agriculture Department and Floral Department boast amazing blue ribbon features, grown in our rich Washington soil. It’s only logical that we put the two together in one amazing building at Evergreen Hall.
The first official Washington State Fair in 2013 featured some incredible special attractions and new features. From the breathtaking light show Luminasia, to the multi-dimensional attraction 'Crazy Worlds' 5-D Adventures, to the acrobatic delights of Cirque Manifique and Cirque Mechanics, the 2013 Washington State Fair provided guests with fresh entertainment and thrills. Our goal is to offer something new and exciting each year while continuing to celebrate Fair favorites and traditions of the past.
We've accomplished so much in the past few years, but we’re not stopping here. More changes are planned in the years to come. We strive to offer more interactive and hands-on experiences, enhance the visual appeal, improve the way-finding around the Fair, and enrich educational and animal experiences. You’ll continue to enjoy improvements in the quality and variety of food and beverage options, as well as make more time for your shopping experience. Comfort is always important, and we’re fine-tuning how we make your visit more enjoyable with additional seating, enhanced restrooms and nursing stations.
The Washington State Fair is built on a rich tradition of the past while continuing to stay relevant as we move into the future. We’re YOUR state fair.