MONROE — It was noon on opening day at the Evergreen State Fair.
A breeze flowed through the open doors of the cattle barn, which was empty except for the animals and their owners.
But nearby, a shaded picnic area was packed with people who had come to eat.
And other folks were lined up at the Purple Cow stand, the Fisher Scones pavilion and the Nile Shriners’ corn booth, just waiting for their annual indulgence in fair food.
Barbara Thompson, of Duvall, has her routine at the fair. First she eats a bratwurst. Then she walks around to see all the exhibits. On her way out, she has to have corn on the cob.
“People are passionate about their fair food,” Thompson said. “And if you eat corn, then you got enough left over for supper there in between your teeth.”
Well, today is the start of the last weekend of the fair. If you haven’t had your fill of food in Monroe, it’s time to get out there.
I grew up in Snohomish County, so going to the fair is an end-of-summer tradition I look forward to, especially at meal time. Unlike Thompson, I always start with the corn.
The Nile Shriners are celebrating their 22nd year at the fair. The charitable group buys the sweet corn they sell from Bob Ricci, whose farm is just down the hill from Clearview. Most years, the Shriners sell about 25,000 ears of corn at the Evergreen State Fair.
Pay $3.50 and ask for a tad of butter. That adds just enough saltiness to make your corn on the cob near perfect. During his first day on the job as a “recycling steward” for the fair, Cameron Lauck used his first break to buy an ear of corn. He, too, wanted that treat first.
Every year I think about buying a greasy hamburger topped with grilled Walla Walla sweet onions. I am getting older now, so it’s something I haven’t eaten in a few years. But those onions always smell so good. At one stand, the Walla Walla burgers are $8.25 each.
This year, I decided to try something different. At Honey Walnut Prawns I bought a four-prawn skewer for $8. Deep fried (what isn’t at the fair?) in a light batter, the shrimp is then dredged in honey covered crushed walnuts. Now that’s a treat.
I can’t go to the fair without a tour through the dairy barns and then a stop at the one-and-only Purple Cow stand, where the Snohomish County Dairy Women raise money for their many charitable projects. The Purple Cow is a big scoop of blackberry ice cream floating in a large lemon-lime soda with a shot of blackberry syrup for $4.50.
Every 13th Purple Cow float ordered is free and everybody in line knows when it happens because the servers ring a cow bell. Sometimes I think people order the floats just to see if they can get one free. Brenda and Rod Courtney like to dress up for their shifts at the Purple Cow and they like to make a big deal out of those 13th Purple Cows.
The thing I buy before I leave the fair for the day is a baker’s dozen sack of scones, with butter and raspberry jam. I bring the fair scones back to the newspaper office as a treat for my colleagues.
Scones are $1.50 each or $16 for 13. Manager Ken Zugner said he estimates the Fisher stands sell about 250,000 scones each year at the Monroe fair. Fishers, a Puyallup-based baking company also offers peach or strawberry shortcake for $5 each.
Several of the food vendors at the fair are based in Puyallup, which of course is where the state’s biggest fair is located. Another Puyallup vendor is the 40-year-old Duris company which sells Elephant Ears.
“What do I like about our ears?” said Natalie Simon, who works for Duris. “It’s fried dough, slathered in butter and cinnamon sugar. What’s not to like?”
Well, there you go.
At the fair you can also buy fresh-squeezed lemonade, huge onion rings, curly fries, kettle corn, and — wait for it — chocolate-covered bacon on a stick for $5.75.
The Snohomish Pie Co. sells a slice of pie for $4.50 and the Lopez Island Creamery offers kid-size ice cream cones for $3.
A Man Dog with bacon and onions is $9.75 at Sausage Fest. Stick Em Up Kabobs sells teriyaki chicken on a stick for $8.75. Kaleenka Piroshky’s beef and cheese bundle of goodness is $8.50 and the Aussie Onion Burst next door is $8. A baked Super Spud is $7.25 and the big pulled pork sandwich at nearby Flying Pig is $8.50,
Need something lighter? A Greek salad at the gyro place is $6.25.
The first thing David Wait from Granite Falls orders when he gets to the fair?
The Fair Famous Pronto Pup Corndog.
“The extra long one,” he said. “Every time.”