Promising four days of family-themed fun, the King County Fair is making its return to the Enumclaw Expo Center, July 15-18.
It’s not as though the fair went anywhere else. It’s just that the 2020 edition was wiped away by a worldwide pandemic, along with pretty much everything else.
The never-ending list of details that go into organizing the fair are music to the ears of Rene Popke, who is tasked with managing the Expo Center and everything that goes with it – including the fair, the single largest effort to grace the 72-acre grounds.
Popke said the Expo staff received the go-ahead to stage a 2021 fair in April. “That’s when we knew we were definitely a go,” she said. “We just didn’t know what it was going to look like.” Since then, she has been talking to food vendors, carnival promoters, entertainers, livestock aficionados and many, many more.
“It’s been a challenge,” Popke said of putting together a fair while society continues on the downhill side of a pandemic. In particular, she makes it clear that certain aspects of this year’s King County Fair will look different. Specifically, the number of commercial booths will be reduced.
“There are a lot of vendors who didn’t make it through the pandemic,” she pointed out.
The work of Popke and her staff will come to fruition Thursday when the gates open and continue through Sunday when the last guest strolls out the gate.
Here are some of the key details as the King County Fair prepares for launch.
HOURS AND ADMISSION
The fair gates will open at 10 a.m. each day, Thursday through Sunday. Closing will be at 10 a.m. the first three days, with a 6 p.m. shut-down on Sunday.
General admission is $10 for those 13 years and older; the entry fee is cut in half to $5 for kids 5 to 12 years old and senior citizens 65 and older; and there’s a military discount ($8) for those with a valid ID. In addition, select Safeway stores are selling discounted tickets for $8 and senior citizens can get in every day for $1, provided they arrive between 10 a.m. and noon.
Those intending to attend all four days can get a pass for $30 for adults or $15 for kids.
Don’t forget to plan for parking. In the Expo Center lots a one-day pass is $5 or a season pass can be purchased for $18.
RIDES AND ENTERTAINMENT
It’s not a real fair unless there are rides for kids of all ages. Among the attractions at this year’s King County Fair will be the Americana Carousel, Bear Affair, Wacky Shack Funhouse and the Super Slide. Rides sounding a bit more ominous include the Scorpion Ride, Viper and Freak Out. There are more, including a fair staple, the Ferris wheel.
Ride tickets can be purchased on-site and there is an option for discount wristbands (visit www.kingcofair.com/rides).
There are concerts dotting the schedule all four days and all are free with a paid admission. The Food Court Stage is found adjacent to, well, the food court.
In keeping with the fair ambiance, many of the entertainers offer a country flavor. There are exceptions, however: the always-popular Beatniks will take the stage from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, offering pop and rock classics that span decades; from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday, fans will be treated to Danny Vernon’s Illusion of Elvis, a tribute to the original king of rock ‘n’ roll; and, from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday, the stage will host Cylas Rocks.
But that’s certainly not all. The Western Heritage Stage, next to the covered arena on the eastern end of the grounds, will showcase live music each day; scattered throughout the lineup will be cowboy poetry and each day opens with a jam session.
For a list of entertainers and performance times, visit www.kingcofair.com/music-schedule.
ROUGHSTOCK RODEO, BARREL RACING
The “roughstock” part of the equation means there are three events – bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding. As usual, a competitor’s score is based both upon the individual and the animal.
The rodeo will begin at 6 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $15 and also allow fair admission.
Barrel racing also is making a fair return, sponsored by the King County Horse 4-H Program. Racing begins at 11 a.m. Saturday.
The Expo Center barns will be filled with youngsters from various 4-H and FFA chapters, along with all their animals. Also, there will be multiple buildings housing all that 4-H members do, which is everything from arts and food to photography and robotics.
Commercial vendors will be tempting fairgoers with their products and food vendors will be whipping up burgers, turkey legs, barbecue, scones and more.