Puyallup Fair is a Northwest Tradition

Lately I haven’t been eating all that healthy, so I thought I might go back on my diet. Then I realized the Puyallup Fair is in full swing. Did I just write something about a diet? I really can’t remember.

The Puyallup Fair is an elaborate ruse created to normalize the over-consumption of elephant ears, onion burgers, corn dogs and anything else that can be immersed in a deep fat fryer. If I were to order this same fair fare at a local restaurant, I might be considered gluttonous or possibly psychologically unstable. However, if I purchase this so called “food” within the walls of the Western Washington Fairgrounds, I am simply a fair-goer.

As a fair-goer I am obliged, dare I say mandated, to eat a scone or two. A scone is a large ball of butter wrapped in a triangular biscuit, stuffed with raspberry jam. One scone is one scone too many, so consuming a half dozen isn’t much worse. There is no culinary rational to fair eating. Cotton candy with curly fries. Why not? Corn on the cob with a deep fried Snicker bar. Sounds right to me.

Although they are separately consumed, fair foods like to linger and mingle in the stomach. A hint to the wise, chili dogs are notorious for crashing the digestive party. Fortunately, there are plenty of midway rides to momentarily distract the stomach’s discomfort.

A ride bracelet is a pass to variations on a theme. Oh sure, the rides have different names, but they soon blur together to create the same sensation. A more apt name for one of these spin wash, blender simulators might be “The Hang-over” or “Bad Mayo” or possibly “Please God, Make it Stop!” The fact that we pay people to make us feel this way is worthy of further study.

It’s usually a good time to take a break when one is unable to tell if their ride has actually stopped. It is at this point many fair-goers split ways. The ego driven, girlfriend clad crowds head for the carnival games, while the rest of us roam the barns and exhibition halls.

I’ve never been much for carnival games. This might have something to do with the fact that I just don’t really need a large styrofoam stuffed monkey or a Twisted Sister engraved mirror. More likely it’s because of my father’s countless, perpetual warnings concerning the foolishness of playing games with such lousy odds. In my family, playing a carnival game was worse than shop lifting. At least shop lifters had the potential of going home with decent stuff.

So like a good little boy, I head straight for the exhibition halls. Well … sometimes I pitch a dime or two at the carnival dishes. A couple years back, one of my dimes just missed an ash tray and landed in shot glass. I referred to my prize as my Puyallup Fair communion cup.

I enjoy the exhibit halls packed with siding vendors, window dealers, juicer pushers, garlic pressers, knife peddlers and ring cleaners; each selling something you only think about or hear about at the fair. How could I not buy that peculiar orange mop. “It absorbed an entire pop can and they gave us a second one for free! For free! And that was on top of the free paring knife. Or did we get that from the Ginsu guy? I really can’t remember. I just know my arms are getting tired of carrying around this giant styrofoam stuffed monkey. Hey, it looks like the scone line went down.”

Did I mention there are animals at the fair, and tractors, and giant squash the size of pumpkins, and giant pumpkins the size of Volkswagen Beetles? It’s all there, every year, just waiting for you, your friends, and your family.

The Puyallup Fair has one of the best advertising slogans ever created that is frequently accompanied by an irritatingly catchy tune. It is less a slogan as it is a command. “Do the Puyallup!” With a half-dozen scones beckoning my name, this is an order I cannot refuse.

Doug Bursch is the pastor of Evergreen Foursquare Church. Evergreen meets Sundays at 10 a.m. at the Riverside High School Theater. He can be reached at www.yesevergreen.org or evergreenlife@mac.com.