When the San Fernando Valley Fair opens Wednesday, children, teen-agers and senior citizens will have their own special days at the fair. So will Valley rats.
Next Sunday will be "Rat Day" at the fair. The special day apparently makes some sense. There are probably more domesticated rats in this area than anywhere in the country, according to Dorothy Pena, vice president of the Mouse and Rat Breeders Assn., who raises 150 rats at her San Fernando home.
On their special day, several hundred rats, mice and hamsters will descend upon the fairgrounds--all confined to cages, of course--to vie for prizes awarded for shininess of coats, shape of ears and feet, temperament and size. (Some rats, officially called "Big Bruisers," can grow as large as small cats.)
Rats can be housebroken and taught to respond to their name, Pena said, despite their terrible reputation. "It is all so unfair," she said. "They make great pets."
More Than Just Rats
But you don't have to own a rat to enter a contest at the fair, which will be held Wednesday through Sunday on the North Campus of California State University, Northridge.
There will be scores of contests for fair-goers that do not require winners to have much, if any, talent.
On various days, there will be prizes for the oldest fair visitor, the visitor who is "totally trendy," the couple with the highest combined age and the families whose members look the most alike and most different.
Men sporting the prettiest, ugliest and most distinguished beards will walk away with prizes, as will the person who can eat the most jalapeno peppers. Infants will be able to compete in a diaper derby with their mothers, and cooks will square off in a chili cook-off.
Bike Race Scheduled
For the first time, the fair will sponsor a pro-am bicycle race that will be held along city streets near the fairgrounds. The race, sanctioned by the United States Cycling Federation, will begin at 7 a.m. Sunday.
Also new at the fair will be an aquarium exhibit featuring a pond and several large tanks filled with such creatures as eels, sea horses, scallops and shrimp.
There will be lots of barnyard exhibits to see. Fair-goers will be able to milk a cow and watch women turn sheep fleece into yarn and then into a sweater. One exhibit will illustrate how a chicken ends up on the dinner table.
A junior livestock auction will be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Hoping for 60,000 Visitors
Fair organizers said they hope 60,000 people will attend the fair, which sports the theme, "Spend Some Time in Fair Country."
Some visitors will be bused in from outside the Valley. Fair directors asked all Los Angeles City Council members to sponsor bus trips to the fair for their constituents who would otherwise be unable to attend.
Most council members from the Valley, as well as council members John Ferraro and Joan Milke Flores, are picking up the tab for busloads of senior citizens and members of youth groups to attend.
Some visitors will be asked to rate their experience at the fair as part of a $30,000 study being conducted to determine what type of permanent Valley fairground is needed. The fair is in danger of being evicted from the CSUN campus as early as next year.
The fair opens Wednesday at 5 p.m., Thursday and Friday at noon, and on Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. It ends each night at 11.
Admission is $4 for adults and teen-agers, $1.50 for children and $2 for senior citizens.
On Wednesday, admission is half price and rides are discounted. On Thursday, senior citizens will be admitted free until 6 p.m.; the same applies to children and teen-agers on Friday.