Standing 10 feet tall, Eric Haines walks by dozens of people during his 45-minute performance at the Benton Franklin Fair and Rodeo, asking how they are doing or offering a high five.
The Everett comedian and first-time performer at the fair is being friendly, but it is also the safest way to walk around on three-and-a-half foot peg stilts.
"I'm engaging with practically everybody I see," he said. "That way, there's no way they will sneak up and knock me."
The stilt walk is only one of his two daily performances. Haines makes the rounds in the morning as a 16-piece, one-man band.
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Haines, 49, walks through the fairgrounds with a bass drum, controlled by his feet, on his back, playing the banjo. He adds in bells, horns and drums while playing Dixieland jazz-style music.
"They're hard for different reasons," he said of his performances. "The stilts act mechanically, like a lever on your knees. The one-man band weighs 50 pounds."
Women danced with Haines while he walked on stilts, wearing an oversized cowboy hat and extra-long chaps. Teenagers jumped to see how high they'd have to go to reach his hand as he held it out.
But children were especially interested in him -- some asked if he is, in fact, on stilts.
"I could be, or it could be that I ate all my vegetables and did everything my mother said," Haines responds.
Maycee Davis, 12, and Natayah Bowell, of Kennewick, met Haines and tracked him down again a few minutes later for a group picture.
They've been coming to the fair for years and said Haines is the best entertainer they've seen.
"He's cool," Natayah said.
Actually, he gets pretty hot in his cowboy outfit, and even hotter carrying the instruments on his back. He limits the amount of time he walks in the 90-degree heat and makes sure to drink three bottles of sports drink and two bottles of water after each walk. And he has to change his drenched clothes.
Haines has been entertaining since 1981, when he was a sophomore in high school. He began by juggling, and added stilts in to the act soon after. He began working full-time as a professional comedian in 1995 and added the one-man band act about five years ago.
The movie Mary Poppins was his main influence as a one-man band, though he'd never met another one-man band in person until a recent festival in Seattle, he said.
"I sure know a lot of them through the Internet," he said.
Walking one-man bands like himself are even more rare, he said. The others are sit-down bands.
Haines' performances brought a new wrinkle to the fair this year, along with the traditional carnival attractions, elephant ears and livestock shows.
The fair continues through Saturday. Haines is scheduled to walk around as the one-man band each day at 11 a.m. and come back at 3 p.m. on stilts.
-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom