Do the Puyallup
State fairs. We either love them or hate em. Reminds me of Notre Dame football in that sense. I have yet to meet anyone that “kind of” loves Notre Dame football, and for that matter their local fair.
Growing up in Spokane, we had an annual field trip to the Spokane Interstate Fair (yes Interstate because it drew people and 4H clubs from Idaho and Montana too for many years) as students at St. Patrick’s Catholic School. I always looked forward to it. Partly because it was day off of school, part because I wasn’t ever exposed to much farming, and monster vegetables in the hood. The old tractors, the old trains and the hobby/craft/product rooms were always a highlight. I don’t remember if we had to pay for them or not, but I always remember a paint tent/box-like thing where we could have various colors of paint and spin them around on a piece of cardboard to make all sorts of crazy, whimsical designs. Not sure why I remember it…maybe it was because it was free?
We would have the annual school visit and usually one more with my mom, some cousins and some of my crazy aunts (love them dearly). We never had much money so we hit up the same stuff as school day, and seemed to linger a little longer in the craft and hobby room. In fact, some of my aunts, and my mother as well, STILL enter crafts in the fair…and you know what? They actually win! REAL MONEY! I thought it was hilarious..but hey, they keep collecting ribbons and prize money. We never made it to the rides, because they just cost too much money. So its time to feel sorry for me…I never experienced the Zipper, the Enterprise, or any of the other rides that seemed to be a mainstay until I was MUCH older.
Once I moved to the West Side of the state, I had heard of this fair that was way down in Puyallup and was supposed to be off the hook. I laughed and my cynicism was without bounds because I wondered how a town a fraction the size of Spokane, could have a legit county, much less a state fair! I was dead wrong and have been going back ever since.
Early in the 2000’s I was married and every September my then-wife and newborn son would head down to Puyallup, figure out whose lawn to park on and then head into the fair. At first sight, I realized this was not the fair of my youth. Huge, loud, and full of people. It didn’t take long though for me to realize the REAL highlight of this fair…it is where I first fell in love with the Fisher Fair Scone. I had heard of these hand-size biscuits and figured they had to be over rated…but when I first held onto that buttery and lightly crispy biscuit, slathered with whipped butter, and smothered with raspberry jam…I was hooked. I had to have more and not just one…this most recent trip I had FOUR!
Made in Washington state, with the handful of ingredients sourced locally as well and run by a family that lives in Bellevue (maybe Clyde Hill), these scones have been a staple of the fair forever (company is over 100 years old!) and have been bringing smiles of surprise and delight with the simple deliciousness.
Fast forward and after a brief hiatus (about 8 years), I am back at the fair. This time, loaded with a desire to let my sons experience a little something I didn’t (not bitter…I promise), the rides. Certainly the dozens of rides that are available at this fair are worth seeing. No, they aren’t the rides of big theme parks, but they are certainly a step up from the “carnivals” of school yards, local festivals and so on. Lots of scares, adrenaline, and of course the option of earning a Metallica mirror at the dart booth (oh, that was when I was a kid…Justin Bieber?)
Since they are my kids, they know a thing or two about food. They too have fallen in love with the Fisher Fair Scone, and we have added a few more Fair faves. Our latest love, the Krusty Pup. They are simply the best corn dogs I have ever had. I guess they were here this whole time! Apparently since 1928! Where was I? What is even funnier is that there many booths and cubbies to get these 12 inch deep-fried pups spread out all over the fairgrounds. Just ketchup and mustard, these crush any corn dog you have ever eaten. Light batter, that has a touch of sweet, and a nice moist crunch (if that is possible) and a uber-delicious frank on the stick. Last year, I ate 3 of them…this year just one (thank gawd) and oooohhhhhh was it good.
Next stop, roasted ears of corn. If you have never had roasted (or BBQd) corn, you have not fully lived. Nothing says end of summer, early fall more to me then ears of corn, soaked in water, and then grilled/roasted over a flame, and slathered (dipped at the fair) in butter, and then sprinkled with your favorite spices, including fresh herbs, salt and pepper, garlic, cayenne, and virtually any other spice you dig. Whole, large ears of corn with natural sweetness make you forget you have been watching documentaries this past year about the “other” corn…and remind us why we love America. Thank you Natives, for sharing this with us at the first Thanksgiving, and every end of summer BBQ and fair since.
I could spend a full post talking about the wild fair foods that have made our country and the month of September great, including deep fried EVERYTHING…but I won’t! (note: my oldest son was committed to trying the deep fried butter going in…but his stomach wouldn’t let him go through with it)
Lastly, one of my favorite spots to eat a “real meal” at the Puyallup Fair is Woody Pete’s BBQ Pit (or some other cool name like that). It is tucked near the back of the fair and you can’t miss it with either your nose or your eyes as there is always a lot of gorgeous smoky aroma eminating from their large wood burning BBQs. We ordered the meat dinner that included a big section of chicken, two gigantic beef ribs, and a double-fisted handful of pulled pork. All smothered in their BBQ sauce that, in my opinion, is a perfect blend of sweet and tang for a good, deep crimson BBQ sauce. We split the plate, we drank our Coke (outside of beer, is there really anything else?), and we waddled back to get a couple more rides in before we headed back North.
By no means do I believe that the Puyallup Fair is the best in the country. I assume places likes Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee, and even the mid west have that distinction. But…when you want some good “clean” fun in September, and you have already experienced some of our smaller, lesser-known fairs in our state (my home town included), you MUST, I repeat, MUST go and Do the Puyallup. Eat, ride, smell, watch, and enjoy. Happy Fall!