MONROE — Evergreen State Fair organizers expect the cost of hiring help during the 12-day event to go up nearly $56,000 this year due to the increase in Washington’s minimum wage.
The annual fair, put on by Snohomish County, employs hundreds of seasonal workers. Among them are ticket sellers and scanners, cleaning crews, hand stampers and parking attendants. Most earn minimum wage. Many of the employees are high school or college students on break from school, or retirees who return year after year.
In November, voters passed an initiative to increase the statewide minimum wage. It went up to $11 an hour starting Jan. 1, from $9.47 in 2016, according to the state Department of Labor and Industries. Under the new law, the minimum wage is set to increase to $13.50 by 2020.
This year’s increase is expected to cost the fair $55,788.33 more than last year’s wages, a 14 percent increase, said Jana Notoa, who supervises fair finances.
However, event planners have decided not to increase admission prices this year.
Anticipated wage increases over the next few years are expected to have a larger impact on the fair, and admission may be reassessed, fair manager Hal Gausman said.
“We review it every year after the fair, then plan and see what’s on the horizon for next year,” he said.
The fair started hiring employees early this month. They’ll start work in August. Last year, 380 people were hired to help during the 12 days of activities, Notoa said. About 150 people land jobs each year with fair vendors through a partnership with WorkSource Snohomish County. There are additional workers who are not counted in those totals because they are hired separately by vendors, performers and others, Gausman said.
“Fairs in general throughout the state have this huge economic impact,” he said.
The money earned by local workers goes back into the community through purchases, he said. WorkSource estimates that the 153 hires it coordinated last year contributed about $100,000 to the economy.
For teens who get their first jobs at the fair, it also provides work experience and a resume boost. The fair hires workers as young as 14 or 15 for some positions. They can be paid 85 percent of the minimum wage, or $9.35 an hour.
Fair organizers have announced several other changes this year. A new daily discount is planned for active U.S. service members with military identification. Special admission and themed days are returning, but some have been updated, such as a two-for-one ticket Tuesday rather than $2 Tuesday.
Also new this year, smoking will not be allowed during the fair. The county worked with the Snohomish Health District on a no-smoking rule, Gausman said.
“We really want to try to create a healthy environment,” he said. “You still can eat some pretty crazy food, though.”
General admission is $12 for adults, $8 for ages 6 to 15 and active duty military, and free for people 90 or older and kids 5 or younger.
This year marks the 109th Evergreen State Fair. Events are scheduled to run Aug. 24 to Sept. 4 at the fairgrounds in Monroe. For more information, go to evergreenfair.org.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.