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Fun at the Stanislaus County Fair

July 21, 2011
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Stanislaus County Fair is celebrating its 100th year and a lot has changed since we visited four years ago.

In theme with it’s 100th year celebration, the Time Travel exhibit will take visitors back to the fair’s inception with photos, school projects, and articles; how many Stanislaus residents know the fair started as a Melon Festival?!

We entered at the North Broadway gate near the Kids Zone and exhibit halls.  The carnival was not visible from the get-go and made it easy to put off until the end of our visit.

The Rain Forest exhibit was not only informative but fun: kids could climb, hop and slide their way into the space which felt very authentic due to the mist, vines, camouflage netting and animals around every corner.  Docents near each animal were willing to share the animal’s unique abilities or qualities, and some were even available to pet.  Score!

We had not recalled whether there was so much “walk-about” entertainment in years past.  We saw a clown riding a penny-farthing, a cowboy on stilts, a balloon sculptor, Al and Wally from the Modesto Nuts, and Seymour the robot all walked around talking to kids.

We’d stopped in at the Lowe’s tent to get crafty, but were disappointed with how simple the projects offered were.  All were geared only towards preschoolers; popsicle sticks, letter beads and glue didn’t spark any creativity in even my youngest child.

The hypnotist at the fair, Steve Bayner, entertained us with very funny stunts appropriate for all ages.  Much to the displeasure of my 9-year-old son, participants had to be over the age of 16.  My children kept questioning whether the participants were faking or not: they couldn’t believe what Steve was able to get the participants to do — act like it was freezing cold or super hot; hold a glass of water and spill it all over themselves.  The show, though a little long, was a nice break from all of the walking we had done.

We enjoyed some traditional fair food then headed over to the 4-H exhibits, stopped in at the small petting zoo and then hit the midway.  The fair offered a large assortment of rides and games (all expensive with little chance to win, though that didn’t stop the kids from trying).  By the end of the night, we were all tired and ready to go home.

The organizers of the fair had offered a free Park & Ride shuttle this year, whose route ran from Pitman High, to CSUS, then to the fairgrounds.  While this sounded like a good idea when arriving, it was anything but when we were ready to leave and already quite worn-out.  It took over an hour to get back to our vehicle at Pitman: everyone was leaving the fair near closing like we were, so while the shuttles were picking up frequently, the number of riders hopping on were numerous.  In hindsight, the $4 parking fee at the fairgrounds would have been well worth the time saved.

A few other things to know before you go:

  • Any live performance with heavy attendance will impact surrounding exhibits.  The area around the stage was very crowded and impeded the flow through the livestock area.
  • First-aid does not carry children’s medicines and will charge for adult dosages distributed.
  • A fair-wide scavenger hunt via personal cell phones is fun and participation makes participants eligible to win an iPad.
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