ENUMCLAW, Wash. - The oldest fair west of the Mississippi River is returning this summer. The King County Fair will welcome back guests on from July 15 to 18 with some modifications following COVID-19 safety guidelines.
Rene Popke, the general manager, said the people of Enumclaw are expressing their excitement about the fair’s return.
"They’re ready, they’re ready to come back. They’re excited that it’s not a drive-thru event. Those were a great placeholder for our grounds, but they’re ready to walk. They’re ready to just feel the excitement, smell the smells of a fair," said Popke. "We’re ready to open those gates, let those kids with their animals back in the barns, those carnival rides, the main stage acts. We’re ready to go."
2019 was the last time guests and vendors could walk through the fairgrounds. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the staff shifted everything to a drive-thru for safety. Come July, the fairgrounds will come back to life, and the locals are counting down the days.
"Bringing those events back to the fairgrounds is a huge part of our summer business and we definitely felt it last year without any of those," said Autumn Rock, General Manager of Charlie’s Café.
Rock’s grandmother Charlie opened the café in Enumclaw down the street from the fairgrounds in 1976. Rock said in all three generations of the family restaurant, no one has ever seen anything quite like the struggles of 2020. She believes bringing back the fair will help their business feel like old times.
"It shows there’s a sense of normalcy— getting back to normal safely. But excited to get together and celebrate the fair," said Rock.
It’s not just her business that will benefit from the fair and all of its visitors returning. Rock said the local economy will also feel a much-needed boost.
"We have such amazing things to offer here in Enumclaw. It’s a little hidden gem kind of. So, we’re excited to see people coming here to see our town and check out all it has to offer," said Rock.
Though a comeback is near, the fair will look and feel different from past years. Popke said most of the favorite events will be open again with modifications. There will also be new touchless activities to reduce contact. Popke said she and her team update their safety plan weekly, as the state guidelines continue changing.
"We’re hiring a COVID supervisor that will be onsite during the fair and for some of our large summer events. So, we’re just kind of waiting to see what the recommendations are as we plan. But we can pivot," said Popke.
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