MONROE — A couple has been selling Stetsons here for 21 years. A grandmother showed her granddaughter around the same fair where she used to bring the girl’s mother. Another little girl explained why she’s always been enchanted by the horses at the fair.
This year, organizers behind the Evergreen State Fair are urging guests to “Harvest the Memories.” For many of the more than 300,000 visitors who flock to the two-week fair each summer, fond memories are what draw them back year after year.
Chip Miller watched 8-year-old daughter Kiley ride a pony shortly after the 109th fair opened Thursday morning.
“We come first day every year,” he said. “We always do the pony rides.”
Kiley also likes the carnival rides and games, especially the big green and yellow slide. But the horses are her favorite part of the day. This year, she rode one named Pumpkin, she told a friend.
“I like how friendly the horses are, and how pretty they are,” she said.
Dicki DePaulis, 66, and husband Steve, 70, have been selling hats and Western gear at their fair booth for more than two decades. They’ve also sold at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup and rodeo circuits in other states. They know what inventory to bring out. The waterproof hats, for example, don’t sell well in Nevada but are a hit in Washington.
There’s something special about the Evergreen State Fair, Dicki DePaulis said. The people are friendly and laid-back. The couple gets returning customers, the biggest complement anyone could offer, she said.
“Last year, I sold a Stetson to this man, and my husband steamed it and shaped it to his head,” she said. “I shook his hand and as he left he turned to me and said, ‘I bought my first hat from you when I was 8.’ “
It gave her goosebumps, she said, to realize that someone who got their first Western hat from her as a child would remember it nearly 20 years later.
Though many vendors, rides and shows return to the fair each year, there are some new highlights. This year, a butterfly exhibit opened to let children feed and interact with the colorful insects.
At least 100 painted lady butterflies, with orange and black wings and fuzzy bodies, fluttered around inside the Butterfly Adventures tent. John Turner, one of the employees, showed guests how to dip a little white feeding stick into a sweet nectar that includes water and agave. Butterflies land on the stick or on hands, shoulders, noses and glasses.
“What you get here is you get to be up close and experience the butterflies,” Turner said.
A small girl walked into the tent. Her face lit up as butterflies flitted around her. She pointed with little fingers and called out “Butterfly!” when one got close to the blonde hair wound in a bun at the top of her head.
“That’s our joy, right there,” Turner said.
The girl was 2-year-old Auri, there with grandmother Kathie Savelesky, of Gold Bar. Auri’s mom, Stephanie Johnson, waited outside the butterfly exhibit while Savelesky led the girl around inside. The family has been coming to the fair for about 25 years, since Johnson was a child.
“I love this,” Savelesky said, watching her granddaughter delight over the butterflies. “I just love it.”
The Evergreen State Fair continues until Sept. 4. Gates open at 10 a.m. Admission is $12 for adults, $8 for ages 6 to 15 or 62 to 89, and free for children younger than 6 or seniors older than 90. Special discount days change pricing. Parking is $10.
For more information, pick up a printed fair guide at the Monroe Fairgrounds or go to www.evergreenfair.org.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org