A screamin’ good time

Mariah Higgins screams as the Drop Zone ride drops at the Central Washington State Fair in 2012. (Photo by Gordon King)

In terms of attendance, there’s nothing bigger in the Yakima Valley than the annual Central Washington State Fair, which each year draws about 300,000 people.
Beginning Sept. 20 and going through Sept. 29, this year’s fair will include all of the traditional animal exhibits, guilty-pleasure junk food and down-home fun it does every year, along with a midway full of carnival games and rides and musical entertainment each night. This year’s concert lineup features classic rock band Styx, country bands Lonestar and Sawyer Brown, pop group Plain White T’s, Christian rockers Kutless, Western group Riders in the Sky and comedy duo Williams and Ree.
Led by longtime member Tommy Shaw, this incarnation of Styx includes original guitarist James “J.Y.” Young, but does not include former vocalist and keyboardist Dennis DeYoung. The band, known for hits such as “Lady,” “Come Sail Away” and “Mr. Roboto,” will play at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 21.
Riders in the Sky, who have won two Grammys for their children’s music, are Grand Ol’ Opry members with a style built to appeal to families. They play at 6 p.m. Sept. 22.
Plain White T’s, whose hit “Hey There Delilah” reached No. 1 in 2007, have now been around for more than a decade and have six studio albums to their name. They play at 5 p.m. Sept. 23.
Kutless, a Portland-based Christian rock band, has sold more than 1.5 million albums since its 2002 debut. It plays at 7 p.m. Sept. 25.
Lonestar, led by singer Richie McDonald, who returned to the group in 2011 after a three-year absence, is best known for country hits such as “Amazed,” “No News” and “My Front Porch Looking In.” Lonestar plays at 7 p.m. Sept. 26.
Comedians Williams and Ree have performed at the fair many times over the years, becoming local favorites. They play at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 27.
Founded in 1984, Sawyer Brown is one of the longest-running and most successful country bands touring today. Its hits include “Step That Step,” “Some Girls Do,” “The Walk” and “Thank God For You.” Sawyer Brown plays at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 28.
“We are very happy with this year’s lineup of entertainers,” fair President and General Manager Greg Stewart said in a news release. “We have worked hard at getting a variety of different kinds of groups to appeal to many different tastes.”
The fair is still looking to add an act that appeals to young audiences for the open Sept. 24 date. And the organization plans to present a “big name Latino act” on Sept. 29, he said.

Movie costumes and props, such as the Batmobile, are part of the “Hall of Heroes” exhibit at the Central Washington State Fair. (Photo courtesy Keith Slagerman/Stage Nine Entertainment)

In addition to all of that, this year’s fair will once again feature a large-scale exhibition in Pioneer Hall from California’s Stage Nine Entertainment. The company, which has been a part of the fair since 2009, will focus on heroes — real-life heroes, Western heroes, comic book superheroes and others — in an exhibit called “Hall of Heroes.” Previous Stage Nine exhibits on the history of candy, animation, rock ’n’ roll and toys have been huge hits for kids and adults alike. “Hall of Heroes” will include movie props, interactive stations and educational exhibits along with all manner of other fun hero-related stuff.
“This is a really interactive experience,” said Stage Nine owner Troy Carlson. “It’s full of photo opportunities with the Hulk, Superman, Iron Man. We have a Bat Cave experience, where we have a 1966 Batmobile.”
The exhibit will be divided into sections on five “hero traits”: strength, gadgets, mind powers, mastery and elements, Carlson said.
“Families can try their hand at some of them in interactive stations to see if they can be heroes,” he said.
The exhibit will define “hero” broadly enough that it will include local, national and international real-life heroes. That includes people like the Navajo code-talkers who helped the U.S. military communicate during World War II. And it includes scientists who developed interesting gadgets, such as Nikola Tesla and Robert Van de Graaff.
“We have a giant Tesla coil and a Van de Graaff ball,” Carlson said. “And we have other scientific experiments; you can see the fact and fiction of them.”
On the fiction side, there will be exhibits dedicated to fictional mortals such as radio-drama detectives and Western heroes as well as the comic book heroes.
“You don’t have to be ‘super’ to be a hero,” Carlson said.
The fair is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sept. 20, 21, 27 and 28, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sept. 22-Sept. 26 and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sept. 29. Admission is $13 for adults, $10 for seniors, $8 for ages 6 to 12 and free for kids 5 and younger. Wristbands for the carnival are also available.
For information on the Central Washington State Fair and a full schedule of activities, go to www.fairfun.com or call 509-248-7160.

— Pat Muir