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The ultimate gathering place
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Every year at this time the county gets a little smaller. This phenomenon is not caused by a rip in the space-time continuum or is it a matter of geographical wonder — it’s called fair time.

In 2011, over 245,000 people made their way to Turlock to visit the fair during its 10-day run — that’s three and half times the normal population of this Valley town. The sheer number of fairgoers is amazing, but a crowded fairgrounds isn’t what I am talking about.

In a recent street survey, more than half of the people who were asked what their favorite part of the fair is said visiting with friends. It is not uncommon at the fair to run into old school mates, extended family members and your mail carrier — all in one night.

Because of its appeal to young and old and those with varied interests, the fair is the ultimate gathering place. Some might say that we now have social media as a universal gathering place. One hundred years ago, the 10 days of the fair might have been the only way to reconnect with old friends. But today, one only needs to visit Facebook and within minutes you can be reunited with everyone in your high school graduating class.

It’s true that social media has made reunions of all kinds just a few clicks away, but seeing someone face to face and sharing in the experience of the fair creates bonds that no computer screen can emulate.

The fair is also where people with like interests can meet for the first time. Sitting in the stands next to you during the demolition derby could be your next best friend, or boyfriend. After the apple pie competition is judged, those whose passion is baking might just strike up a life-long friendship or find a new culinary partner. If you have two antique tractors sitting in your garage, then the fair is definitely the place for a little gear talk.

The fair is also the best place to make lasting family memories. I still remember my first trip to the county fair. The corn dogs, carnival rides and farm animals were great, but the best part was walking around the fair with my mom and dad and experiencing everything together.

I was able to pass along that experience with my own daughter, with trips to two different county fairs and two state fairs. My little girl is all grown up now, but she still makes the fair a must-go event every year. To see a video of her lip syncing to Brittany Spears at the fair when she was 12 years old, visit the Journal’s website. (Just kidding; I wanted to see if she would read this!)

I am already looking forward to sharing the sights, sounds and tastes of the fair with my new grandson. This multi-generational love of the fair is not uncommon here in Stanislaus County. Take a look around during your next visit to the fair and you are sure to see happy families making life-long memories.