Final day of state fair marred by death in motorcycle drag race
This is the first year the Monroe and Puyallup fairs overlapped
MONROE — Just before 2 p.m. Monday, the 2016 Evergreen State Fair passed last year’s mark for attendance.
A total of 321,479 people had come through the gates since the 12-day fair started Aug. 25. That’s compared with 321,320 people last year.
It’s still a few thousand folks shy of the five-year average of 335,534 people, fair manager Hal Gausman said. He thought the number might climb closer to that as people continued to arrive Monday afternoon and evening. It was the last day of the fair.
Among the music, animal exhibits, carnival rides and fried fair food lunches, there also was “sad, sad stuff in a crazy happy place,” Gausman said. Around noon Monday, a motorcyclist died during a drag race at the Evergreen Speedway, the grandstand race track at the fair. The man was killed when his motorcycle collided with a bus at the track.
The grandstand and track were closed pending an investigation by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. The rest of the fair continued.
The weekend was the first test to see if the expansion of the Washington State Fair in Puyallup to overlap for a few days with the Evergreen State Fair would diminish participation in Monroe. The Puyallup fair historically has started after the fair in Monroe finished, but this year it started Friday.
The overlap doesn’t appear to have hampered festivities in Monroe, Gausman said. Sunday saw a record for 11th day attendance. As a rainy morning gave way to a sunny afternoon, more than 48,000 people flocked to the fair.
“Even with the Puyallup stepping on our time, we’re doing just fine,” Gausman said. “Now if we could just control the weather.”
In the end, rain or shine seems to be the main factor in how many people attend the fair, regardless of other events. Gausman is working on a chart going back a few years to track attendance alongside weather so fair planners and safety personnel can get a better idea of what the forecast means for crowds.
Kaylee Knaus, 11, and mom Tara Knaus noted that the fair did seem a little less busy on its final day than it has been the last couple of years. They suspected the Puyallup fair might have something to do with it. The mother and daughter have shown beef cows at fairs in Monroe, Puyallup, Lynden, Chehalis and out of state in Reno. They’ve been at the Evergreen State Fair for three years together. Tara Knaus used to show beef cattle here in the mid-1990s. Her parents started raising cows in Acme, about an hour and a half north of Monroe, and now she and her brother have about 600 cows.
Annabelle, a month-old calf, was the most popular of the 10 cows they brought to the fair, Kaylee said. Kaylee missed her second day of sixth grade so she could head to Monroe for the weekend. She and her mom stayed in a camper and were up by 6 a.m. each morning to tend to the cows, then in bed around 11 p.m.
Outside of the barns near the food area, a crowd of friends chatted and shared onion rings, a musician walked around performing his “one-man band” act and vendors in bright sunglasses handed out samples of sweet SunGold kiwis.
“People see something new in the store and don’t want to buy it if they haven’t tried it, so we want to let them try it,” said Javoris Chester, who was directing people toward the kiwi samples. “This is one of the best events. You’ve got your families out here, kids. It’s for everybody.”
The strength of the Evergreen State Fair is that there are loyal, local people who come back year after year and bring their families, Gausman said. The dates for next year’s fair already have been set: Aug. 24 to Sept. 4, 2017.
After taking down paper decorations from their farm display Monday, Maya Hartzell, 12, pretends to wear a cape as she runs in the dairy barn on the last day of the Evergreen State Fair in Monroe. At right is her sister, Hannah.
As riders go upside down behind her, Lauren Demoulin, 16, takes a photo of her friend Monday as they ride the YoYo on the last day of the state fair in Monroe.