MONROE — The neon Ferris wheel stood silent and still over the flurry of activity beneath it Wednesday as vendors and competitors prepared for the Evergreen State Fair’s opening day.
Ducks, taking it easy before their big races, quacked from inside their trailer. Thousands of pounds of potatoes sat in crates, soon to become curly fries and cheesy bakes. Classic stops like elephant ear and cotton candy trucks opened their windows as they braced for the 350,000 people who will visit the fairgrounds in the next week and a half, beginning Thursday.
The chaos of fair prep is old news for Earl Marcellus, who has been putting on the lumberjack show for the past 38 years.
As his team filled up the pool for log-rolling, Marcellus grabbed a stump for himself and took a seat. He and his wife started the show together.
“There was sawdust in my veins and sawdust in hers,” he said.
Marcellus and his brother have been sawing together as a team since they were teenagers. They’ll be performing at this year’s shows, which happen daily at the fair.
Carsen Monaghan, the recent runner-up at the world championships for log climbing, will also appear.
To find the lumberjack show, just listen for chainsaws and look for a cloud of sawdust.
The Evergreen State Fair is booming, county parks spokesperson Shannon Hays said. Attendance has been on an upward trend for the past few years.
People come for their best-loved oddities — like staring at giant squash and eating foods that shouldn’t be fried (if those exist) — and for their creature comforts — like watching the rodeo with a cold beer or taking a Ferris wheel ride with a loved one.
But Hays said the county hopes to keep visitors coming back and to attract new ones by adding to those fan favorites. This year, that means new beer and wine gardens and dance demonstrations to dust off your cowboy boots for. It’s a recipe for a pretty great first date, in Hays’ opinion.
For those looking to get a real taste of what the fair is all about, there are some hands-on activities, like a beekeeping demonstration.
Over in the display hall Wednesday, the Lake Stevens Grange members painstakingly arranged a display of their carefully cultivated produce, canned goods, jams, flowers, nuts and other goods. The items can’t just be placed in the peat moss boxes, they have to be arranged how they’d grow in nature.
After 13 years of competing in equine 4-H, Miriam Huff has kept coming back to the fair.
“I don’t want (the fair) to be a forgotten celebration,” Huff said. “It’s such an essential part of the community.”
For students in 4-H, the event is the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work.
“It gives meaning to riding your horse all winter when it’s 30 degrees and pouring down rain,” Huff said. “It makes the cold hands worth it.”
Much of what she learned in 4-H has stuck with her and proved useful in everyday life, she said.
As a science education masters student, Huff said she often draws on what she learned from her equine science 4-H class.
“The fair matters,” she said. “That’s why I’m here.”
Julia-Grace Sanders: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a full schedule of fair events, visit www.evergreenfair.org.
There are several opportunities for discounted entrance to the fair:
Thursday, Aug. 22: Get free gate admission with a donation of three non-perishable food items per person before 3 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 26: Everyone 62 years and older receives free gate admission.
Tuesday, Aug. 27: Bring a friend, coworker, neighbor, your barista or someone you met on the bus. But whatever you do, come in twos for buy one admission, get another gate admission of equal value for free until 2 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 28: Grab the kids and head to the Fair for Family Day. Admission is four for $30 all day. Check out the Courtyard Stage schedule for special family-friendly acts all day long.
Thursday, Aug. 29: Free gate admission for kids 12 and younger all day long.
Friday, Aug. 30: Free admission for active, veteran and retired military and their dependents with proper ID.
Monday, Sept. 2: Come celebrate the last day of the fair where gate admission is $2 off for everyone.