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Bring on summer
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While the official start of summer is still three weeks away - June 20, to be exact - the season began for many last weekend. Local lakes, rivers and parks were full of families looking to start summer with a bang - or a splash and the sizzle of a grill.
The next three months will be a mix of relaxing days sipping iced-tea on the porch and frenzied vacation fun for many Valley residents. There are quite a few area activities to look forward to in the upcoming months.
Fairs and festivals are a big part of summer. The Pick and Gather at Riverdance Farms and Merced River Fair kick-off the festival season on Saturday. This farm and local ecosystem centered event is tasty, as well as educational. The Merced County Fair is only a few weeks away, as it runs from June 13-17. This year's theme is Cows Just Wanna Have Fun, and I'm sure the human visitors to Merced's 2012 fair will also have a good time.
The Fourth of July will once again be a big celebration in Turlock. A parade, fireworks, car show and festival are all on tap at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds this year. More information on this patriotic celebration can be found on page A3 of today's Journal.
The Stanislaus County Fair opens July 13 for its annual 10-day run, bringing the best livestock, farm exhibits, arts and crafts, carnival rides, and, of course, fried foods all to the Turlock fairgrounds. The fair also brings top-notch entertainment, heating up the summer nights. For more information about the fair entertainment line-up, look to today's Arts & Leisure page in the Journal. The California State Fair runs during the same time as the Stanislaus County Fair, so fair enthusiasts can get double the fair fun in July.
Just when local families have finally recovered from weeks of corn dogs, pony rides, roller coasters and trips into the Rainforest Adventure, it will be time to don the red, white and blue in support of America's 2012 Summer Olympics athletes.
The London Olympics take off on July 27 and there is sure to be many local viewing parties and even a few excuses to grab some wings at Jura's or a pizza at Lamppost and watch the glory of the world's oldest games being played out large and in color.
Even when not participating in one of the events above, there is still plenty to do this summer. From T-ball to soccer, Little League and swimming, the City of Turlock Recreation Division has a multitude of activities to keep every youngster busy and out of trouble while school is out.
Columbia Pool (starting June 16) and Turlock and Pitman high pools (starting June 18) are also open for recreational swim. Cooling off while teaching the next generation how to play "Marco, Polo" is a must-do summer activity. If your young ones prefer running through sprays of water rather than immersion, then the Columbia and Broadway park water features are just the thing. The water parks offer the front yard running through the sprinkler experience, but supersized and a lot more fun.
One of my favorite things to do in the summer is visit the farmers' market and then work on perfecting my grilling technique. The Turlock Farmers' Market runs every Friday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Broadway, between Olive and A streets. I also enjoy taking a trip north on Geer Road and hitting up all the produce stands when I can't get free on Friday mornings. Longer daylight hours makes me feel like I have more time to prepare and cook dinner. This is the season where I let my culinary dreams run free.
This summer, I have made a commitment to be healthier. I still plan on partaking in the occasional corn dog and ice-cream cone, just in smaller portions and not every day. Increasing my exercise routine and watching my caloric intake are just two changes I plan on making this season. I will also make sure to apply sun screen when I'm out and about and finally get that check-up from my family physician. Check out the inaugural edition of the Health & Wellness magazine inserted in today's Journal for more healthy ideas.
No matter what you do this summer, just remember to relax and cherish every moment.
For more information about the events listed above, visit:
• Pick and Gather at Riverdance Farms and Merced River Fair:
• Merced County Fair:
• Stanislaus County Fair:
• California State Fair:
• 2012 London Olympics:
• City of Turlock Recreation programs:
• Turlock Certified Farmers Market:

This column is the opinion of Kristina Hacker and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.