Passenger trolleys decorated with festive lights and stuffed penguins at the Washington State Fair's Holiday Magic tour.(Elissa Blankenship Photo Credit)

Washington State Fair organizes sold out festive lights experience for fair visitors during pandemic

During a time when social interaction is scarce, the Holiday Magic experience at the Washington State Fairgrounds offers an opportunity for people to reconvene and enjoy the holidays within the safety and comfort of their vehicles.

Guests travel through a tunnel of vibrant lights. (Elissa Blankenship Photo Credit)

The fair’s holiday experience is adorned with festive lights, communal artistic decorations, a scavenger hunt activity and fair food. Tickets for the tour were sold in early November at $25 per carload, selling out all 10,000 tickets before the scheduled dates beginning on Dec. 4.

The Washington State Fair administration coordinated the event with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, abiding by the latest guidelines issued by Gov. Jay Inslee. Visitors are asked to wear masks, stay in their vehicles and maintain social distancing guidelines, while employees and vendors have strict sanitization protocols to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re just doing everything that we can to keep everybody safe, but really it’s a contactless event,” said Stacy Van Horne, public relations manager for the fair.

The presenting sponsor of the Holiday Magic experience, Columbia Bank, set up donation boxes for their Warm Hearts clothing drive where visitors can donate new materials like coats or blankets for those in need. Donation boxes for this winter clothing drive can be found outside of the fairgrounds at various Columbia Bank locations and throughout the Holiday Magic tour.

During the preview on Dec. 3, employees, fairground officials and news media attended the fair’s media event before the public opening on Dec. 4. Fair foods from vendors such as Fischer’s Scones, Pizza By The Slice and Big Mama’s Meat Shack were available to purchase at various stops on the tour’s designated route. Merchandise including blinking light necklaces, headbands and wands were also for sale. 

At the merchandise station located at the beginning of the route, Foundation Development Manager Holly Ball mentioned that the blinking products purchased from the stand will contribute to funding for the Washington State Fair Foundation.

Ball (left) and fair staff operating the visitor merchandise booth. (Elissa Blankenship Photo Credit)

The foundation financially supports the educational and scholarship programs, along with providing preservation and improvements to the fairgrounds. The scholarship program is the foundation’s largest, which works to provide scholarships for college students and those graduating high school, according to Ball.

Among other features of the event, visitors can participate in a scratch ticket scavenger hunt. The hunt involves finding icons throughout the route which offer various prizes at the end. In addition to the lights and decorations, guests are given 3D glasses to wear which cause lights to appear as snowflakes. 

A section of the holiday lights drive includes an area that features decorations created by different service organizations within the communities of Puyallup and Sumner. This includes a piece by the Puyallup Police Department and a tribute to health care workers decorated in light-up daffodils.

Lighted decorations provide tribute to healthcare workers. (Elissa Blankenship Photo Credit)

The Classic Coaster and The Extreme Scream feature festive lights, with the coaster highlighted by slow flashing lights that change colors. The Extreme Scream is decorated to resemble a Christmas tree with red lights as ribbons, though the annual tree lighting ceremony didn’t occur this year due to COVID-19 complications.

“We have rides that are there year-round, so while they won’t be running, they’ll probably be decked out in holiday glam,” said Horne.

Other fairs across the nation, including State Fair Park in Yakima, have organized similar holiday events or food drive-thrus in place of missed fair experiences. Many of the fairs across America have contracted companies to hang their lights instead of having employees work to prepare the light show.

“I think one of the unique things that we have found in planning this is we’re doing this all internally, that we have not contracted out – this is all our amazing, creative employees pulling this all together,” said Horne.

Horne further explained that due to these circumstances, year-round staff members have been able to generate income during a time when hours are few and far between.

In support of the fair’s mission to create long-lasting memorable experiences, the Holiday Magic experience aims to provide a festive show for visitors to remember for years to come.

The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost

Elissa Blankenship

Washington State Fair organizes sold out festive lights experience for fair visitors during pandemic

by Elissa Blankenship time to read: 3 min