In a vision of things to come, sponsors, VIPs and fair staff gathered Wednesday night for a sneak preview of this year’s El Dorado County Fair.
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With a theme of “Blue Jeans and Country Dreams,” the fairgrounds sparked with lights, sounds and sugary smells — all announcing the start of the four-day event that began Thursday and runs through Sunday.
Jody Gray, who is the CEO of the fair, said she expects 65,000 adults and children to attend, with lots of new entertainment and exhibits as well as the return of many old favorites as attractions.
The preview event attracted 400 to 500 people with many bringing their children as the fairgrounds were turned into their personal playground with free bags of cotton candy and buttered popcorn, free play at all the carnival booths, and a chance to get aboard as many of the rides as their hearts and stomachs could take.
Gray said the event is held annually to thank all the sponsors, dignitaries and volunteers and to kick off the publicity for the fair.
On hand to help fair guests enjoy the evening were eight members of the Mother Lode Lion’s Club who served up a barbecue dinner while members of the fair board of directors, like Earl McGuire and Mike Owen, sold beer and wine.
The meal was a reminder of one of the fair’s big attractions — carnival food. Who doesn’t crave their yearly corn dog on a stick, slathered in mustard and accompanied by a cold beer while visiting the exhibits and commercials booths? And if you don’t leave the fair sticky from the candy apples, fudge and other goodies, you’re doing something wrong.
Then there are the food demonstrations, which count as some of the best entertainment at the fair with the added bonus of people being able to buy products afterwards, like Crazy Charley’s barbecue sauce, at bargain prices.
Owen said one of the new exhibits this year is of animals from Australia including wallabies, wallaroos, kookaburras and kangaroos, as well as an exhibit featuring wool — thus highlighting the importance of animal husbandry in El Dorado County.
Besides those exhibits there are plenty of other events for animal lovers from the Pygmy Goat show to the 4-H/FFA El Dorado County Junior Livestock Auction on Saturday starting at 10 a.m. The event always draws a large audience of those there to bid, as well as others who just enjoy watching the fast-paced event.
Providing a preview of those events on Wednesday night were Jordyn Gilmore, 15, who showed off her exotic pig, Rue, which romped through the grass, and Adrianna Novelo, 16, who brought the cow and calf she raised. Novelo will show both during the fair as well as sell a steer at auction.
A wide variety of musical entertainment will be available during the fair from rock bands, country western and hot gypsy jazz as well as tribute bands playing the music of Tim McGraw and the Rolling Stones.
Owen said other popular entertainment includes the always exciting wheelbarrow race and Susan Rosen — the Mistress of Mesmerism. There is even participatory entertainment such as a chance to bang away at an old car at a dollar a pop with the proceeds going to benefit M.O.R.E.
McGuire mentioned the appeal of county fairs including information on new products, food and entertainment. “People come to share ideas and participate in competitions and to see something new,” he said.
And indeed there is a long list of competitions from bubble gum blowing, to Teicher’s Free Bean Spitting Contest and Tortilla Toss Contest.
Kids in particular love fairs because of the games and rides. Wednesday night was a child’s paradise as kids jumped from the balloon water race to the merry-go-round. Little Tess Bowman, 5, took on the alligator roller coaster all by herself while the grandson of Ann and Gary McMillan thrilled to a ride called Casino. McMillan said her daughter and grandson came all the way from the midwest for the fair.
Fair hours are noon to midnight on Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to midnight on Saturday, and noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday. Ticket prices and discounts vary, so check the fairground’s Website for the best package for you and your family at eldoradocountyfair.org.
Paid parking at the fairgrounds is available as well as a free parking and shuttle service at three locations: the Placerville Library/Government Center, the Walmart Park & Ride Lot, and Prospector Plaza between Kmart and SaveMart.
So put on your jeans, pack up the young’uns and head over to this year’s El Dorado County Fair for the best overall entertainment venue in the county.
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.