Everything Bremerton: Life can be like the fair
September 7, 2012 · Updated 5:38 PM
By Colleen Smidt
I spent my entire childhood growing up in the Puyallup Valley and graduated from Puyallup High School.
It was a wonderful place to grow up at the time. Much more rural than it is now, there was a multitude of berry and corn fields scattered throughout the valley. Town was a smaller sleepy, quiet place with a “Mayberry” feel. On occasion, we could even ride our horses into town and hit the grocery store. You never went anywhere without meeting up with someone you knew or even worse someone your parents knew – not the best social situation if you were a teenager attempting to find a small amount of freedom and a little bit of occasional space.
For 17 days every September the Western Washington Fair Grounds becomes the center of the universe for valley residents and a large portion of the Puget Sound. A little more than 1 million people attend the Puyallup Fair during the three weeks of operations. Vendors and support operations roll in to create a city within a city that feeds and entertains what is basically a daily party from dawn till dusk.
Until I moved away from Puyallup, first to a small apartment in Gig Harbor when I married and moved to Bremerton when we were finally able to purchase our first home. I did not realize or understand how special a community’s ability to adapt, plan, organize and handle such a large impactful event year after year with a “that’s just what we do” approach.
The recent possibility of a Kitsap NASCAR facility and Sprint Cup race came about several years ago. It caused outright panic by certain local groups over the possibility of a couple hundred thousand people entering the community for less than a week made me laugh.
My two decades of desensitization to even larger crowds over a much longer period of time, for the Western Washington State Fair, combined with my own NASCAR attendance, had me scratching my head about the over the top Doomsday predictions. Doomsday had not been my experience with an annual large event by any stretch.
Every year the fair was both a blessing and a curse. The blessing was as a participating and competing 4-H member, entry to the fair was covered for the days you had your animals there. You go in early, feed the animals, get your hand stamped and head straight back in after school. The curse was having your high-school campus located less than four blocks away. Traveling between classes and open windows in classrooms drew in the tempting food smells and screams from roller coaster riders like a beckoning siren call that made a typical day of classes seem like an endless torture on your teenage senses.
The fair brings together the best of what is offered locally and regionally in Western Washington. Go, but make sure you check out the animal barns, the 4-H and agricultural barns, the hobby halls and the craft displays. Skip a few of the rides and a few of the foods you know you should not be eating anyways and find the life of the fair. Be sure to appreciate how the host residents of the Puyallup Valley have adapted to ensure that your visit and everyone else’s to the fair is the best it can be.
My hope is that someday, the Bremerton area is able to attract and host such a large, well-attended and premier event with the same organized, welcoming and easy attitude.