Friday, September 6, 2013
Nineteenth Century Today: All's Fair in Puyallup
The Puyallup Valley runs from Mt. Rainier down to Commencement Bay in Tacoma, following the path of the glacier-fed Puyallup River. The area has been growing crops since it was settled in the 1850s and was home to the Puyallup Tribe before that. In 1900, local residents banded together to charter a "Valley Fair" to showcase area agriculture, horticulture, dairies, stock raising, mining, and manufacturing. The small fair, which ran for three days, cost each family a dollar to attend.
But what really put the Puyallup Fair on the map was horse racing. In 1901, the fair expanded to include a race track and was held over four days. That original race track was used until 1977. So many people came from far and wide that in 1902 the fair added parking lots for the jalopies. From there, the fair continued to expand, to more days, more acreage, more activities affecting more people in more areas. In 1913, it became the Western Washington Fair, but even when I was born more than four decades later, everyone still called it "the Puyallup."
One of the mainstays of the Fair was Fisher scones, fresh made and dripping with raspberry jam. That tradition started in 1915 and continues today. Another tradition was lost in a fire in 1970. That was a ride called The Old Mill Stream, where couples could ride on boats through a shadowed waterway that included vistas from exotic locations. It was all terribly romantic, except for the last scene. All you saw was the back end of a donkey that kicked out at the boat. It was supposed to drive the girl squealing into her boyfriend's arms. Though I was in elementary school, I loved that ride! I couldn't wait until I had a boyfriend to throw myself at. All's fair in love, after all.
Welcome to statehood, Puyallup Fair!