The 2019 Stanislaus County Fair had its share of highs and lows. Highlights included a surprise visit from actor Jeff Goldblum and a 16 percent increase in attendance over 2018. A definite low point of the Fair’s 10-day run was a large brawl on the final day that led to four sheriff’s deputies being injured, five people arrested and one horse being punched in the rear.
"This year was a good overall year with a lot of people coming out for the diverse entertainment,” said Matt Cranford, chief executive officer of the Stanislaus County Fair.
New entertainment at the Fair this year included the Walk in the Wild exhibit, that allowed guests to visit with exotic animals from all over the world, such as tigers and bobcats. While excitement of seeing a tiger at the Fair proved to be a popular attraction for many families, some in the community were appalled by the animals’ small cages and forced interaction with people.
“The past few days, I have been talking a lot about the inhumane wildlife exhibit being put on by the Stanislaus County Fair on my various social medias. I understand that the fair is one of the few things we have to look forward to here in Turlock, but this really is something that reflects negatively on our town’s values…People in Turlock and people in general agree that what is going on is not right,” wrote concerned citizen Cerene Davis to the Journal.
“A photo opportunity does not justify animal cruelty,” she continued.
Whether it was the wild animals, the interactive stingray exhibit or the 10 nights of concerts, the Fair drew in over 260,000 guests this year, a 16 percent increase from 2018. Fair concessions were also up 9 percent and Butler Amusement, the fair ride operator, was up 2.5 percent compared to 2018.
On July 16, the Fair welcomed actor Jeff Goldblum (“Jurassic Park,” “Independence Day,” “The Fly”) who decided to stop by while filming a new docuseries on motor homes for National Geographic. The film crew came to Turlock, Fair spokeswoman Adrenna Alkhas said, after having discovered the Fair’s annual Destruction Derby event has one of the best motor home derbies in the country.
Congressman Josh Harder also paid a visit to the Fair, kicking off the Sale of Champions at the Junior Livestock Auction on July 20. He presented a Congressional Recognition to the Fair Board in honor of the Junior Livestock Auction’s 55th anniversary and to celebrate the fair’s tradition of agricultural education.
The Junior Livestock Auction grossed $1,064,082 for FFA and 4-H members. Sold at auction were 26 rabbits, 179 goats, 146 sheep, 365 swine, and 53 steers. The 55th Annual Market Beef auction grossed at $295,987.
Livestock increased in entry numbers in 2019, with total gross sale of animals sold at the fair auctions exceeding over $1.3 million. Future Farmers of America (FFA) and 4-H members sold 98 heifers at the 51st Annual Replacement Heifer Sale, grossing $305,650 ($3,151 per head). Supreme Champion was Isabella Pires, from Wood Colony 4-H, selling her heifer at $10,500. Reserve Supreme Champion was Kylie Kriese, from Gregori FFA, selling her heifer at $5,000.
Nearly 30,000 individual entries were exhibited at the 2019 Fair, from orchids and quilts to rabbits and market hogs.
“The true mark of a fair’s success is in the positive exhibitor participation and making sure our guests are happy,” said Alkhas. “Our exhibits program is a staple at our fair going down so many generations of families exhibiting at the fair. We are very proud of our exhibit program and it is what sets us apart from other Fairs in the state.”
The last night of the Fair’s run ended in mayhem, however, when a large fight broke out after one of the beer booths closed early. Four sheriff’s deputies were injured, five people arrested and one horse punched in the rear.
The injuries sustained by the deputies ranged from scrapes and bruises to a dislocated shoulder, said Stanislaus County Sheriff spokesman Sgt. Josh Clayton. During the fight one of the sheriff’s mounted patrol horses, Maximus, was punched in the hindquarters. According to the sheriff’s department, Maximus is already recovering and “still committed to serving justice and will not be dissuaded in his efforts. The deputies are doing just fine also.”