If someone were hawking a day at the Ventura County Fair, here is what the pitch might be:
"Step right up, ladies and gents, we've got just what you need. Let the kids enjoy exhilarating rides on the Zipper while you marvel at the nightly fireworks shows and boogie to Rick Springfield. There's cow-chip tossing, clogging expositions and a contest to show off all you know about cooking with Spam. And speaking of food, we've got it all--fried vegetables, cinnamon rolls and just about any delicacy you've ever wanted on a stick."
It's that time of year again. The county fair, with the futuristic theme of "Visions of Tomorrow," is setting up shop at Seaside Park.
A mix of old and new attractions is expected to delight enthusiasts when the festival starts Wednesday. Last year's fair drew a record 275,000, and officials are expecting at least 250,000 this year.
But the first couple days of this year's fair will be a bit quieter than usual. Because of tight scheduling on the fair circuit, the rides and midway won't debut until Friday--the first time that has happened in 20 years.
Ray Cammack Shows, which runs the carnival and midway, won't wrap up the Orange County Fair until today. . Two days to transport everything to Ventura County and set it up safely would be a logistic impossibility, fair publicist Teri Raley said.
Fair officials had initially decided to kick off the entire event Friday, compressing it to 10 days from the usual 12, but they opted for the current schedule after the scaled-down plan drew opposition. Other groups, mainly in the livestock sector, had said they wouldn't be able to pack in a full show in only 10 days, Raley said.
"We've actually heard from people that they're pleased the carnival won't be there the first two days so they can enjoy the other attractions," Raley said. "But obviously others will be disappointed not to have 12 days of carnival."
Those disenchanted for a lack of carnival rides the first two days, however, will have plenty to excite their senses elsewhere within the 62-acre fairgrounds, officials said.
Free with fair admission will be top-name musical entertainment--including home-grown swing kings Big Bad Voodoo Daddy--as well as rodeos and two days of motor sports in the Grandstand Arena.
Special events and new exhibits in keeping with this year's theme include Mad Science's "Taking the World by Storm"--bringing virtual inclement weather to sunny Southern California--in the Youth Expo; a space station greenhouse showcasing Beylick Family Farms' hydroponics technology in agriculture and natural resources area; and an elaborate diorama of a future fair in the gems and minerals building.
When it comes to fair contests, the rule is: the hokier, the better. This year's competitions, particularly those cooked up by the Junior Fair Board, rose to the challenge.
In addition to the famous Spam recipe contest, the 30-minute turkey or chicken dish cook-off and the favorite pie-eating competition, contestants will battle it out singing karaoke, rolling balls across a stage using their noses and speeding to squeeze water-soaked sponges into a bottle sitting atop a co-conspirator's head.
And what would the Ventura County Fair be without Uncle Leo's Barn to charm and amuse youngsters who may never have been up close and personal with friendly barnyard animals, from pigs to goats?
The more than 40-year-old Ventura County tradition will continue this year with the previously adobe-colored barn restored to its rightful red, thanks to a paint job by the Junior Fair Board.
In addition to entering the "Name the Piggy" contest, children will see eggs hatch, engage in agricultural activities and listen to story time each afternoon.
As opening day approaches, those who live and die by the county fair couldn't be more thrilled.
Seaside Park General Manager Roger Gibbs, who came here last year from the top spot at the Colusa County Fairgrounds near Sacramento, said he couldn't wait to experience his first Ventura County Fair.
"I'm excited to see 250,000 smiles and know we were all a part of that," he said.
"Right before the fair it's like you've spent 253 days getting ready for a party and you're just waiting for the first guest to arrive," she said. "We just love it."
When: Wednesday through Aug. 13.
Hours: The fair will open at 11 a.m. daily, with exhibits closing at 10 p.m. and the midway closing at 11 p.m. or midnight.
Admission: Adults $7, children and senior citizens $4, children age 5 and younger and seniors older than 100 free. Special days with free admission are for visitors age 12 and younger (Friday), seniors and people with disabilities (Aug. 8) and military personnel (Aug. 10).
Tickets: Before 8 p.m. Thursday, guests can buy advance carnival tickets for 20 rides for $20. During the fair, ride tickets are 60 cents each and all rides require two to five tickets.
Parking: On-site parking is $5 per car; the lot can accommodate up to 2,000 vehicles. Free shuttle service is provided from the County Government Center off Telephone Road, Pacific View Mall, Ventura High School and a parking lot at Harbor Boulevard and Schooner Drive.
Getting there: Metrolink will offer scheduled trains from Chatsworth, Simi Valley, Moorpark, Camarillo and Oxnard each weekend of the fair.
Events: The Times will print a schedule daily.
Information: Call 648-3376 or 656-1260 or log on to www.vcfair.org