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Cows and humans just wanna have fun
Merced County Fair opens today
Little Texas will perform their rockin brand of country music at the Outdoor Theatre on Friday. - photo by Photo Contributed

 “Cows Just Wanna Have Fun” is the theme of this year’s Merced County Fair which centers on celebrating cows and dairies. The fun isn’t just for cows, though, as the 121st annual fair kicks off today with a variety of activities for young and old.

Seniors get free admission today and a Seniors’ Day Expo will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. between the Pavilion and Central Park. Opening night will end with a bang as fairgoers will be treated to a free fireworks show tonight in the grandstand, set to start after the auto and boat races, around 10 p.m.

Thursday is Kids’ Day at the Merced County Fair and kids 12 and under get free admission that day only.  The “Rockin’ 50s Kids Costume Contest” will be held at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Plaza Stage. The costume contest is presented by the Junior Fair Board and there is no pre-registration needed.  It will be a 50s theme, so dress up your toddler or tyke in a fifties outfit and head out to the fairgrounds for some retro fun. There will be two age categories – infants to two years and three to five years. Each child who participates in the event will receive a ribbon, a certificate and a coupon for a free Icee at the fair.  

On Friday, the first 1,000 visitors to the fair will receive a gift courtesy of Emanuel Medical Center.

The Junior Livestock Auction will start at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday in the Les McCabe Arena (formerly the Nolet Arena). Local 4-H, FFA and independent junior livestock exhibitors will be in the spotlight.

A new zip line will wow fair visitors throughout the five-day event. The zip line starts at the 28-foot tower outside Half Dome Hall and will fly over the crowds onto the lawn at the back of the Senior Home Arts Building. The zip line costs $10 a person and $15 for two.

Kids pedal tractor pulls, racing pigs, a petting zoo, hypnotist Terry Stokes , a wine garden and a full complement of carnival rides will be featured every day of the fair.

The Grandstand will be the place to be for high energy, fast-paced entertainment at the fair. Opening Day will fire up with the always popular Auto Races featuring Valley Sportsmen cars and Four Bangers, and a new attraction, Boat Races. The Merced Speedway’s top Hobby Stock Division drivers will be racing in two qualifying heats to determine the top ten stock cars that will compete in the Boat Race main event. Ten stock cars, each hauling a boat, will run 20 laps around the speedway. If a boat comes off or is knocked off the stock car’s trailer, that driver is disqualified, said John Soares, Merced Speedway’s promoter.

Trailer Races, a similar event to Boat Races, debuted at the 2011 fair, and it was an instant crowd-pleaser.

“It’s like a rolling destruction derby, only the cars are hauling boats behind them,” said Soares, adding, “It’s the last man who’s still got a boat who wins the race.”

The event starts at 7 p.m. today.

On Thursday, fairgoers can check out the top tractors in the Western U.S. at the Truck & Tractor Pulls. There will be non-stop action and it will be loud. The multi-engine tractors boasting three or four engines are one of the big attractions of this event, said Donnie Fagundes, president of the Pacific Tractor Pullers Association, which is putting on the event.

Fagundes expects up to 40 tractors for the Grandstand event.

“These are the best tractors on the West Coast,” he said. There also will be an amateur class for locals who can register the day of the event at 2 p.m. at the Grandstand. The scales will close at 5:30 p.m. for the 7 p.m. event.

There will be single engine modified engine tractors, modified multi-engine tractors in three classes 5,800 pounds, 7,200 pounds and 8,000 pounds and the Allisons, the aircraft engines. Plus the 9,300 pound Super Farm tractors.

On Friday, it will be “metal mayhem” as Holland Racing Promotions presents the Demolition Derby. Starting at 7 p.m., drivers will go metal to metal, smashing and ramming other vehicles in the arena while keeping their own wheels running. The most aggressive and skillful drivers that do the most damage to the opponents’ derby cars will be selected to advance to the Championship Destruction Derby.

The winner of the main event will receive $3,000. Second place prize is $725, third place is $350 and fourth place gets $200. Winners of the heats will take home $150 for first place and $75 for second place. The best appearing car will be awarded $50. The total cash purse is $5,000 and trophies will be awarded in most categories.

Any two-wheel drive cars are allowed that conform to all the rules. Glass must be removed, doors and trunks can be welded or chained and other rules must be observed. Entry forms and driver rules are available at the fairgrounds office or at

On Saturday, Humpz and Hornz Bull Riding Tour will be presented by Wes Ibrahimi of LeGrand at 6 p.m. The event will star up to 40 bull riders. There will be a championship round where the top ten contestants will come back to be matched to ride the top ten bulls. Several of those bulls have been to the Professional Bullrider World Finals.

There will be a great clown act, too. National Rodeo Finals entertainer and professional rodeo clown, “Charlie “Too Tall” West, will be back.

“The crowd really loves him, he’s just really funny,” said Ibrahimi.

On Sunday, La Arrolladora Banda El Limon Y Jaripeo starts at 4 p.m. The   Jaripeo or rodeo is scheduled first, followed by the band’s performance. 

Grandstand admission, 6 years and up, is $5 for all events except Sunday’s show. Children 5 and under get in free. Admission to Sunday’s La Arrolladora Banda El Limon Y Jaripeo, presented by Pepsi, is $20 and $25 in advance and $30 the day of the event.

The musical line-up for the fair will start with The Afters, talented musicians and songwriters who have had several hits ride the Christian music charts. Also performing in the fairgrounds’ Outdoor Theatre are: Average White Band, bringing their “gotta get up and dance” funky soul sound on Thursday; Little Texas, playing their rockin’ brand of country music, Friday; Evolution: The Ultimate Tribute to Journey,  playing the music of Journey on Saturday; and Caravanserai – The Santana Tribute, performing the music of Santana, on  Sunday wrapping up five nights of free headline entertainment in the Outdoor Theatre at the 2012 Merced County Fair.

Each night a headline entertainment act will appear at 8:30 p.m. in the fairgrounds’ Outdoor Theatre, where all concerts are free with admission.

Admission to the fair for everyone 6 years and up is $5 – that’s half the 2011 $10 admission.  Children 5 years and under get into the fair free. Parking is $5 per vehicle.

The fair is open today through Friday from 5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.; and on Saturday and Sunday from 3 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.

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