Fair Food

The Unlikely Story of the Fisher Fair Scone

How a British teatime snack became a cult favorite at the Washington State Fair.

By Jaime Archer August 31, 2017

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A buttery Fisher scone loaded with its partner in crime, raspberry jam.

Image: Conifer Foods

An oversized rubber ball zigzags across a muddy field, bounced between skeletal Model T Fords in a game known as “auto polo.” Nearby, participants compete in log rolling competitions, attempting to force their opponents off the slippery wood and into a large pool. In 1915, sports, horse races, and even a three-ring circus are common at local celebrations like Puyallup’s Valley Fair. But in this year, a highly unlikely snack is about to take the spotlight.

While scones often get a bad rap as crumbly, dry biscuit-cakes, the Fisher scone’s debut at the Valley Fair—precursor to today’s Washington State Fair—was a significant moment in the local creation’s unexpected journey to food stardom. Though British at their core, Washington’s own version is a celebrity at our state fair; this year it even became an ice cream flavor.

But it’s hard to beat the original: Nestled between elephant ears, burgers, and corndogs, the staid teatime snack manages to draw huge lines. Last year the fair sold about 1.3 million of them, most accompanied by raspberry jam and honey-whipped butter. Though seemingly the polar opposite of typical “fair food,” the scones became a centerpiece of the fair over the decades, luring grandmothers, fathers, and children alike to line up for one of these delightfully sticky masterpieces.

When the Washington State Fair opens on September 1, scones will be made on-site at seven different locations. Nostalgia is part of the draw, but the real reason why the scones have stood the test of time is also be the simplest: the taste. Now comes the time for you to rid yourself of your preconceived notions of scones; Fisher’s version is delicious even as dough—sweet and tangy all at the same time. The first time I tried the Fisher Fair Scone mix (more on that later), I ate at least half a scone’s worth before popping them in the oven. The end result was, of course, even better than the unbaked version—not dry at all, hardly a crumb in sight. A bit sweet, but not cloyingly so. It’s no surprise Fisher has sold over 100 million of them in the past 102 years.

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A picture of the Fisher booth at the 1959 fair.

Image: Conifer Foods

Fisher scones take their name from the Fisher family, which took Seattle by storm at the turn of the century. In fact, the city was practically molded by O.D. Fisher: He established the Grandin-Coast Lumber Company, took the helm at Fisher Flouring Mills, acquired management control of the First National Bank of Seattle, and financed the city’s first radio station, KOMO, which still exists today. The family’s empire was eventually dismantled, with Fisher coming under the overwatch of Conifer Foods. Even under this new banner, Fisher retains elements of a family-run business; president Mike Maher has been part of the company for 40 years, originally getting his start at the fair’s booth as a teenager.

Washington’s signature teatime treat actually got its start at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Hoping to showcase the superior quality of Fisher flour, O.D. Fisher decided to sell scones at the world’s fair. A few months later, another Seattle-area operation, Puyallup and Sumner Canning Company—responsible for preserving the region’s plethora of raspberry fields—approached Fisher in the hopes of marrying the jam and fair scone. The rest is history.

In more recent years, under the helm of Conifer Foods, Fisher has become more than just a fair scone. In 1989, the company revived consumer products (i.e., scone mixes) from decades past and has since added biscuit, cornbread, and pancake mix to the lineup. You can find them all at local grocery stores, and baking the scones at home is practically foolproof; add water, pop the dough in the oven, and you’ll have warm scones in a mere 15 minutes. A Fisher food truck made its debut just this past year at the annual Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition. Since then, it’s putted around the state, showing up on the streets, at private events, and—don’t feel betrayed—at other fairs. This year, the company even launches a scone-flavored ice cream at the Washington State Fair: Fisher’s own vanilla base swirled with scone chunks and raspberry puree. Servings will be three ounces and packed into retro Dixie cups because, c’mon, the company can’t help but marry old and new.

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