MONROE — Shrieking kids, whirling rides and a mishmash of aromas from frying fair food signaled the opening of the Evergreen State Fair’s 106th year Thursday.
The fair also opened with a gift.
Recycling and waste company Republic Services, a longtime sponsor of the fair, gave $50,000 to the Mukilteo and Arlington Boys &Girls Clubs for its annual Community Stewardship Award.
The Boys &Girls Club of Snohomish County provides meals and activities for about 17,000 children at 19 locations each year. Kids between the ages of 5 and 18 can stay at the clubs before and after school or in the summer.
Joe Casalini, director of business development for Republic Services, said the company has partnered with Snohomish County for decades to put on the fair. When the company and county were deciding who should receive this year’s stewardship award, the Boys &Girls Club stood out.
Three members of the Snohomish County Council went to the Boys &Girls Club when they were children. Dave Somers, Brian Sullivan and Ken Klein said having a safe place to learn new skills, play sports and meet other kids was life-changing.
“I came from a very, very difficult family background,” Sullivan said. “I had nowhere to go. I grew up in the Mukilteo Boys &Girls Club.”
Republic Services awarded a total of $30,000 to the Mukilteo club, $10,000 each year until 2016. The money is set to go toward the club’s campaign for a new, larger center in Harbour Pointe.
Republic Services also gave $20,000 to the Arlington Boys &Girls Club, which serves children in Arlington, Oso and Darrington. County Council members said the club is an important resource after the March 22 Oso mudslide that claimed 43 lives and blocked Highway 530 between Arlington and Darrington.
“As we all know, community is not just about celebration,” Casalini said. “It’s about coming together when disaster strikes.”
Klein recalled being part of the Arlington Boys &Girls Club as a kid and meeting children from Darrington.
“I remember the boys from Darrington were bigger and tougher than we were,” he said.
The friendships he made are especially important now, he said.
Republic’s donation to the Boys &Girls Club preceded a ribbon cutting ceremony to officially kick off the Evergreen State Fair.
The fair is about celebrating agriculture and the history of farming crops and raising livestock in Snohomish County, county parks director Tom Teigen said.
“That’s been true all 106 years,” he said.
For many Snohomish County families, the fair is a summer tradition.
Mariah and Dave Egbert, of Edmonds, said they know all the ins and outs of the fair. Their oldest daughter was in 4-H for four years, which means they spent eight long days in a row at the fair each summer. This year, they brought their youngest, 4-year-old Danni, to the fair for a few hours of fun.
“It’ll be rides, food, probably get an elephant ear,” Dave said.
Danni had her heart set on riding the roller coaster.
“I like doing the big kid rides,” she said.
Kathy Ezell’s granddaughter, on the other hand, was happy to stay on the pony ride. Ezell snapped pictures as the 3-year-old waved to her.
Her grandchildren are visiting from Oregon and the fair seemed like the perfect thing to do, she said.
Ezell remembers when her grandson, now 7, rode a horse at the Evergreen State Fair five years ago.
“He was 2, and he thought it was a cow,” she said.
The animals and crafts are her favorite exhibits. But Thursday, her plans for navigating the fair were simple.
“We’ll do whatever the kids want,” she said.
Colleen Fisher had a similar philosophy as she hurried to keep up with 6-year-old Maggie while helping 4-year-old Olivia, who was struggling to finish her melting chocolate ice cream cone.
The ice cream dripped off Olivia’s chin and onto her striped sun dress, but she and Colleen caught up with Maggie near a toy display.
It was the Seattle family’s first time at the fair.
“It’s great to have this available to get in touch with the way things used to be,” Colleen said.
Olivia and Maggie aren’t sure how things used to be. They do know that their favorite part of the fair is the rides, especially the roller coaster.
But Olivia didn’t plan to go on the roller coaster again Thursday afternoon.
Not after all that ice cream.
The rides, food and fun are set to continue until Sept. 1 at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe.
Kari Bray:425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.