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Family Is Fair's 1st, Again

Ventura County: The Stewarts rise at 6 a.m. to claim head of the line for the 20th year.


In a day of firsts, the Stewart family of Simi Valley was No. 1. Again.

They say Wednesday marked the family's 20th year at the head of the line on opening day of the Ventura County Fair. They almost didn't make it on time.

"We had a little traffic today," said Jim Stewart. "You worry a little about that."

The Stewarts' day began at 6 a.m. when Jim Stewart rustled the younger family members out of bed.

"You pull 'em by the feet, and then you threaten 'em with a bucket of water," he said. "Sometimes they get wet."

By 10 a.m., five family members had again claimed their traditional spot outside the Seaside Park entrance in Ventura. When the gates opened an hour later, the family, represented by three generations, had hundreds of people waiting behind them.

This was one of the smallest gatherings of the family to attend the fair's opening day, Linda Stewart said.

"When I was eight months pregnant with him, he was here," Linda Stewart said of Tommy, 13. "The kids we used to bring are all working now."

The first few years, the family wanted to get into the fair early, Jim Stewart said. But after a few times of making it to the head of the line, they didn't want to concede the first spot.

"It got to be tradition after awhile," he said. "We said, 'Hey, let's try to keep it up.' "

Once inside the fair, the group headed to the Lolly Swings to give the youngest member, 3-year-old Kaelie Johnson, a ride.

Elsewhere down the midway, another family dined on corn dogs, their first meal of the day.

"The first one I got was all doughy, so I had to trade it in," said Lynnette Culver, 12, of Redding. She and her brother, Brandon, were in town with family members.

Within a few hours of the opening, the noise of clanking rides and excited screams mixed with carnival barkers' voices.

Patricia Grimes, 11, of Redwood City made her first visit to the fair Wednesday with her aunt, Mary Levick of Oxnard. By expertly tossing darts, Patricia won one of the first prizes awarded: a large, wrinkly stuffed dog.

Mari Becerra of Oxnard brought her three children with a group of friends to the fair. Her daughter, Aleesa, was celebrating her 12th birthday.

"It's not overly crowded and I love it," Becerra said. "They like the rides."

In the livestock pens, Kathy Culpepper gave one of her 30 Columbia sheep an opening-day grooming in preparation for later judging.

"You just want them to be smooth and neat-looking," said Culpepper, a breeder from Le Grand. "You can spend two to three hours."

The fair runs through Aug. 12 at Seaside Park in Ventura.


(Ventura Edition) Today at the Fair

Here's a look at some of what's happening at the Ventura County Fair today.

* The schedule is subject to change.

* Seaside Park opens at 11 a.m.

* Carnival Wristband: 10 rides for $10 (available until 8 p.m.)

* Parking at the fairgrounds is $5 per day. Free shuttle service is available with free parking at the Ventura County Government Center, Pacific View Mall, next to the Ventura High School stadium, and at Harbor Boulevard and Schooner Drive. Shuttle service is also available with a $5-per-day fee at San Buenaventura State Beach.

* Noon, 2, 4:30, 6:30 p.m.: All-Alaskan Racing Pigs; Porker Flats ch.

* 1:30 p.m.: Open Youth Rabbit & Cavy Showmanship; Poultry Barn 200 Pigs; Porker Flats ch.

* 4 p.m.: Estrellas del Aztlan; Pepsi Stage

* 7 p.m.: IMCA Modifieds, VRA Modifieds, CDCRA Dwarf Cars & Demolition Derby; Grandstand Arena

* 7, 9 p.m.: Asleep at the Wheel; Seaside Blues Club

* 8 p.m.: Taming Ingrid; Pepsi Stage

* 9:30 p.m.: Fireworks

* 10 p.m.: All buildings close

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