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Washington State Fair welcomes masked crowds on opening day in Puyallup

Fair organizers say the Tacoma-Pierce County Health District would not have allowed the fair to operate without an indoor and outdoor mask mandate.

PUYALLUP, Wash. — A mask mandate was not going to keep Les Hodgkiss from coming back to the Washington State Fair.

“If you’re not used to the masks by now, I don’t know what to say,” said Hodgkiss, the Puyallup resident who came to his first state fair in 1964.

Earlier this week, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department issued a health order requiring the wearing of masks for all employees and visitors, except those under five or with medical conditions.

Hodgkiss brought his wife and grandchildren to the opening day of the fair Friday morning. They were all masked.

"I'm used to it," said his grandson, Gunnar Erickson. "It just seems normal to me right now."

Masks can be taken off while someone is eating or drinking, said fair spokesperson Stacy Van Horne.

Van Horne said the county would not have let the fair open without requiring masks inside and outdoors on the fairgrounds. She said security officers will ask people who don’t have masks on to comply or leave the premises.

Puyallup Police Deputy Chief Dave McDonald said his officers spoke with some guests about the mask mandate, but said there were no issues. 

As a Fair Ambassador, Theola Swann, who has helped direct guests to the restrooms or their favorite food booths since 2001, said she was glad to see the mask mandate didn’t keep people from coming on opening day.

“I guess if we all follow the rules now, we can move on? I’m hoping,” said Swann.