Considering what happened to Clayton Sparks the first time he went to the state fair, it’s a wonder he ever came back.

Sparks, 82, has been working at the Washington State Fair almost every September since 1951.

But his first visit in 1945 sent him to the hospital. He and his family went on a ride called the Caterpillar. He remembers it as being rough.

“I got off and had a terrific stomach pain,” said Sparks. “The next morning I had my appendix out.”

But six years later he was hired as an usher and other than a couple of exceptions, he’s worked as at the fair, usually as an usher, at most fairs since.

“This is the place to be in September,” said Sparks, thought to be the longest-tenured Washington State Fair employee.

He said a lot has changed since his first fair. It runs nearly a month instead of a week, there are a lot more rides, and the menu is not the same.

“I stay away from that deep-fried stuff,” said Sparks.