Washington State Fair canceled for the first time since WWII

PUYALLUP, Wash. — The Washington State Fair has been canceled this year because of COVID-19. The fair was scheduled to be held Sept. 4–27.

The state fair has been a South Sound staple for 120 years.

“Other than World War II when the U.S. government took it over and, unfortunately, turned it into an incarceration camp, we have never closed. We’ve survived the Spanish flu, polio, many other wars, a fire that burned the grand stand down,” said Stacy Van Horne, public relations manager for the Washington State Fair.

This year, the show couldn’t go on because of COVID-19. In order to open, Pierce County needs to be in Phase 4 of the state’s Safe Start Plan. Currently, the county is in Phase 2.

“The best way we can put it is it’s heartbreaking,” said Van Horne.

The Washington State Fair is the state’s largest event and one of the 10 biggest fairs in the country.

The three-week fair draws in more than a million people.

“Our vendors come from everywhere, from right down the street to, we have some that come from Peru, so this really is a worldwide effect,” said Van Horne.

Families don’t just fill the fairground; they eat at Puyallup restaurants, and vendors sleep in nearby hotels, like the Fairfield Inn & Suites.

“It’s a huge hit to not have the fair this year, it brings in thousands of room nights,” said Brooke Bourn, Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott’s general manager. “We won’t be able to make up the business this year.”

“There are vendors who are here for those 20 days, and that’s half of their income or more. There are vendors that won’t survive, their businesses won’t survive because we can’t have the fair, and it’s very disheartening for us,” said Van Horne.

September is the second busiest month of the year at Cattin’s Family Dining. The restaurant sits across the street from the fair.

“I’m going to lose at least 60% of my business,” said Hermann Harris, Cattin’s Family Dining owner.

It’s already been a challenging year for Harris.

He was counting on the fair. Now that it’s canceled, he can’t bring a dozen of his employees back.

“We’re going to survive, it’s that simple. We’ve been here too long, it’s a landmark in Puyallup,” he said.

The Washington State Fair is still holding a Live Country Music Drive-in Concert Series, which runs July 16–19, with acts like Jimmie Allen.

They’re also selling fair food to-go July 10–12 and July 17–19 at the fairgrounds. Visit https://www.thefair.com/fair-food-to-go/ for more information.

Click here to watch a message from the Fair’s CEO Kent Hojem.