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Santa Barbara County Fair opens its doors Wednesday for fun, food and farming | Local News

Santa Barbara County Fair opens its doors Wednesday for fun, food and farming | Local News

Justin Armour, head of games at Helm & Sons Amusements, was busy setting up rides for the opening of the Santa Barbara County Fair on Tuesday.

The 131st annual festival of farming, food and fun, “Let the Magic Begin,” begins at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Santa Maria Fairpark and runs through Sunday.

Armour, 45, said he has worked for the carnival company since he was 17.

“Ride, food, games, entertainment, everyone pitches in,” Armour said. “This is our family life, for us, this is what we’ve done our whole lives. My kids are best friends with his (the owner’s) kids. It’s a family affair, right down to Justino, right here, right now,” he said, pointing to a worker nearby setting up the metal bars to cover a slot machine.

In addition to the traditional rides, animals, petting zoos, pony rides and fairground food, the fair offers a variety of interactive, family-friendly shows and educational exhibits.

“We have some fun entertainment on site, such as the pig races, which are everyone’s favorite. Where you ‘bet’ on a pig and get the blue ribbon if your piggy takes first place,” said Caitlin Miller, CEO of the Santa Maria Fairpark. “The Magic Bean is a magic show that teaches children about agriculture and the magic of growing something from a seed to a vegetable,” she said.

Magician Adam the Great will showcase his talents on both the main stage and in La Placita, a new colorful area with a free stage featuring magic and music with Outlaw Mariachi and Mariachi Divas.

Mariachi Divas is a Grammy-winning, six-piece all-female mariachi band that will perform Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

In addition, a roaming magical dragon will offer fair visitors the opportunity to take unforgettable photos with the mystical creature, according to Miller.

This year’s fair will feature several new attractions, including the Olympic Bobsled, the largest roller coaster in the Santa Maria Fairpark.

The ride resembles a typical theme park roller coaster, complete with a series of hills and a spiral helix at the end. After the ride, guests have the opportunity to purchase their photo from the ride. Assembling the ride’s bobsled requires a crew with a crane, which is needed throughout the day as it is transported on multiple trailers.

The full ride list includes over 30 attractions, including kiddie rides such as Circus Train, Fantasy Carousel, Kiddie Carsharing and Super Sonic. Major rides include Alpine Slide, Medusa, Super Shot, Zero Gravity and Zipper.

In addition to the mariachis, every night at 6:45 p.m. at La Placita there will be a piñata drop for children with candy, tickets and surprises. Then at 7:00 p.m. a DJ will take the stage, play music and give away tickets and prizes.

On Wednesdays, admission is $5 for all visitors before 5 p.m. On Thursdays, seniors 65 and older can enter before 5 p.m. for $5. Friday is ranchers and agriculture day with a heifer sale, and children are admitted free. Saturday is military and police day, and admission is free for people who show their ID, according to Miller.

“We’re trying to highlight some of the people in the community and celebrate those who are part of our community and make it affordable for them to come and enjoy the fair,” Miller said.

To highlight the importance of local agriculture, this year’s Fairgrounds will feature 1,000 exhibitors and one of the Network of Fairs’ four largest livestock auctions in California.

“It’s a great way for students to learn about farming and how to manage profit and loss as well as understand how much it costs to raise an animal. And then there are the soft skills like showmanship, teamwork and helping other exhibitors. My favorite part is writing them the thank you letter (from the student to the purchaser of an animal) because that’s a lost art,” Miller said.