Carnival games, sputtering tractor engines, delectable food and even a wild animal or two made their successful return to Turlock on Friday for opening night of the Stanislaus County Fair, with visitors by the thousands making it out to the fairgrounds in spite of the warm summer sun.
The temperature was 96 degrees when the fair gates opened at 5 p.m., but that didn’t stop Turlock resident Charlee Millsap and her daughter Baylee Millsap from being the first fair-goers to walk past the ticket takers and onto the midway.
“Even though I’m 25 and have been here every single year, I’ve never been on the first day before and neither has (Baylee) so I’m excited,” Millsap said. “We knew it was going to be packed, so we came early.”
Over 230,000 guests visited the Turlock Fairgrounds during the Fair’s 10-day run in 2018, and just as many if not more attendees are expected this year to check out its spinning rides, adorable animals and booming concerts.
Country act High Valley kicked off the concert series on the Coors Light Variety Free Stage this year, and Modesto resident Hannah Bellman brought her mom Cynthia Wright to the venue several hours early so that they could get front row seats. It was both women’s first time at a Stanislaus County Fair concert, they said, and it was their love for country music as well as the crooning brother duo that encouraged their early arrival.
“I’ve been following the band on social media and listening to their music for years,” Bellman said. “This was just a great opportunity for us to see them closer than we probably will ever be able to.”
While concertgoers waited in the sun for a glimpse of the country stars, FFA and 4-H members nearby in the ag pavilion worked to keep their animals cool despite the evening’s hot temperatures. While the upper 90s temperatures had fair-goers wiping their brow on Friday, it’s expected to be even hotter over the weekend with triple digit weather on Saturday and Sunday.
FFA members hose down their animals during the day to keep them cool, and fans ensure the animals don’t overheat.
These responsibilities fell upon Turlock High School sophomore Gaby Franco for the first time this week, as she made the switch from showing pigs for the past three years to showing a replacement heifer at this year’s Fair. She’s been working with her heifer, Millie, since January to ensure she was ready for Thursday’s showing, where she earned eighth place.
“You have to work with them every day, and halter break them to make sure you can lead them and they don’t go crazy when you show them,” Franco said. “You get attached to them because you’re with them literally every day.”
Millie will go to market over the weekend and be sold on Sunday. Then, Franco’s time in the ag pavilion will be over and she can enjoy the other activities the Fair has to offer. Her favorite of these?
“The food!” she said with a laugh.
While the more conventional Fair animals convened at the west end of the fairgrounds, the east end featured porcupines, wallabies and even a tiger as part of the Walk in the Wild exhibit, which features walk through jungle atmosphere with exotic animals from all over the world — all of which would be unable to survive in their natural habitat and have been saved by the organization A Walk on the Wild Side.
Stephanie Turner brought her two small children to gaze upon the magnificent beasts almost by accident, she said.
“When I told them we were coming to the fair, I said they would be able to pet some sheep and maybe a cow,” she said. “I had no idea this would be here…it’s almost like a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
The Stanislaus County Fair runs through July 21 and is open from 5 p.m. until midnight weekdays and noon to midnight on Saturday and Sunday. Adult admission is $12, and the price for children ages 7-12 is $7. Children six and under are free. Tickets and ride wristbands can also be purchased online at www.stancofair.com.