By Justin Arnold and Yoshiaki Nohara Herald Writers
MONROE — It’s not polite to ask for someone’s age — including the Evergreen State Fair.
As the fair readies to celebrate its centennial, some Monroe residents are questioning whether the fair really is 100 years old or a mere 50.
Tom Parry, 73, was a teenager the first time he attended the fair.
According to Parry, it was also the first time the Evergreen State Fair was held — from Sept. 8 to 11, 1949.
“I remember going to the very first fair,” Parry said. “How do I know? Because I saw the signs that said ‘First Annual Evergreen State Fair.’ “
Fair officials said they expected a dispute.
“The problem is that so many people researched it and so many people believe they have a definitive answer, and even those people don’t agree,” said Elizabeth Grant, the fair’s marketing director.
Fair officials acknowledge that the Evergreen State Fair hasn’t run continuously for 100 years in Monroe. But they say the fair has existed, in one form or another, for a century.
“We feel confident that we are celebrating 100 years of fairs in Snohomish County,” she said.
Today, the Evergreen State Fair at 14405 179th Ave. SE is the official county fair and had more than 890,000 attendees last year. It recognizes the importance of all the fairs that once existed in the county.
According to records kept at the Monroe Historical Society, the first fair in the county began as an agriculture display in Monroe in 1874. In the mid-1890s, it was christened the Snohomish County Fair where it was held in the Monroe City Park. In 1916, the county fair relocated to Granite Falls until the Depression, then began to move around to various granges such as Tualco, French Creek and Cherry Valley.
Those granges combined to host the first Cavalcade of Valleys, a fair that featured a parade and carnival in 1941. It was canceled for the next two years as World War II and the war effort took their toll on Snohomish County.
The County Poor Farm in Monroe — at what is now the existing Evergreen State fairgrounds — became the site of the Snohomish County Fair after the Cavalcade of Valleys stopped in 1946. The Snohomish County Fair became the Evergreen State Fair in 1949.
Back in 1983, fair officials had experts research the history of local fairs, Grant said. Based on their findings, they decided to celebrate the 75th anniversary, although not everyone agreed. It wasn’t clear whether the anniversary was for the Evergreen State Fair or other fairs in the county, said Grant, who didn’t work for the county 25 years ago.
“We just can’t confirm the research they did,” Grant said.
Still, fair officials have followed the tradition set in 1983, Grant said. They know that an event called the Evergreen State Fair hasn’t been around for a century, but they believe this year’s anniversary is an appropriate time to celebrate local fairs over the last 100 years.
“When you have so many historians who disagree, it makes it tougher for everybody,” she said.
Last week, Parry, who also volunteers for the Monroe Historical Society, leafed through a thick, white, three-ring notebook looking at the posters announcing various fairs. He remembers the County Poor Farm before it was bisected by train tracks and converted for use for the current fairgrounds on one side, and what became Valley General Hospital on the other. Some of the old poor farm buildings he walked through exist today.
“The poor farm was a natural place for the fair to go,” Beth Stucker said. “Plenty of room for everything and everyone.”
Parry smiled and said, “Yeah, and the parking was a lot better, too.”
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Reporter Justin Arnold: 425-339-3432 or firstname.lastname@example.org.