YAKIMA, Wash. — There’s a 28-foot-long Batmobile just inside the front door of State Fair Park’s Pioneer Hall, which probably won’t be that big a surprise for visitors to the Central Washington State Fair this weekend.
After all, by the time they see the car, they’ll have walked past Spider-Man and Wonder Woman, who will be stationed outside the hall. It’s the “Hall of Heroes,” brought to the fair by California-based Stage Nine Entertainment, the same people who were behind the hit exhibits at the past few fairs on animation, candy, rock ’n’ roll and toys.
“Every year we want to push the envelope and get better,” said Troy Carlson, the owner of Stage Nine. “Every year there’s more and more to do.”
The idea is that “Hall of Heroes,” which includes interactive displays on real-life heroes such as Navajo Code Talkers, astronauts and soldiers, has something for just about everyone. Kids who want to escape into the flash and bang of superheroes will find things to enjoy, but so will students of history, he said.
“Worldwide, people have a real fascination with heroes,” Carlson said. “In every culture. It’s inherently part of the human condition. You go back to ‘Beowulf,’ the story of Camelot, King Arthur. The stories were meant to inspire, and they’re lesson-driven, too.”
Like the company’s previous exhibits, there is plenty of flash and eye-candy involved in “Hall of Heroes,” but there’s also a great deal of depth for those who care to explore it. There is, for instance, a wind machine that allows kids (or adults) to experience what it would be like to control the elements like Storm from the X-Men. But there’s also a display that explains conduction of electricity through the human body and why it’s not really possible to hurl lightning bolts.
“We try to put a lot of science in it, as well as fun,” Carlson said Wednesday as he and his crew put the exhibit together.
Providing varied entertainment that appeals to the broadest possible audience is a guiding principle of the fair, said Greg Stewart, Central Washington State Fair Association president. The 10-day event, which last year drew 304,769 visitors, has attractions as disparate as prize-winning tomatoes and a demolition derby. And of course there are farm animals, carnival rides, hypnotism shows and fried Twinkies. And that’s just a small sampling.
“The general, overall concept is that it’s family entertainment, and just a lot of things going on to enjoy,” Stewart said.
The concert lineup, featured in today’s On magazine along with a full schedule of fair events, is another example of the event’s diversity, he said.
“We try every year to offer something for everybody from 8 to 88,” Stewart said about this year’s lineup. “Some years we’re successful, and some years we can’t get the balance. But this year I think we did pretty well.”
He believes the fair can outdraw last year’s total attendance, but as always outside factors such as weather have a lot to do with that.
“The goal is always to do what we did last year or maybe a little better,” Stewart said.
Things get underway Friday at 11 a.m. And they’ll be in full swing Saturday, following the fair’s symbolic kickoff, the 52nd annual Sunfair Parade on Yakima Avenue. The fair closes for the year at 9 p.m. Sept. 29. And in between, people will be able to escape their day-to-day lives for a while in a place that has something for just about everyone.
“It’s just got a good feel to it,” Stewart said. “It’s hard to put into words.”