Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Ventura County Fair offers deep-fried brownies, farm animals, Hall and Oates

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After 15 consecutive years of being second, the Segal family made sure to wake up early -- 5:55 a.m. -- to get the first shot at 64 acres of fun and food at the Ventura County Fair.
Maggie Segal and her three teenage granddaughters from Ojai always lined up at the gates of the fairgrounds behind one family from Simi Valley, who had been in front for 27 years running.
But yesterday, in the first of many competitions held on the opening day of the fair, they won the coveted spot in front.
"You just have to want to come back every year!" exclaimed Taylor Segal, age 11. "The food, animals, rides, and the people are always so nice, we just keep coming."
With Grandma in a wheelchair, the Segals raced in, kicking off the 12-day fair that promises world-class musicians, carnival rides and games, motor sport events, rodeos, fried food and every staple of the countryside.
More than 300,000 people attended last year. A similar number is expected this year, as the big draws of about 50 rides and games and free nighttime fireworks and concerts remain a part of the festivities. This year will feature eight nights of concerts from such groups as Styx, Hall and Oates, and 3 Doors Down.
But talk among fairgoers was largely about food on Wednesday. Vendors are now selling deep-fried brownies, fried Snickers, and BLT tacos. This is the first fair at which Nate Janousek, owner of the Spud Ranch food trailer, is selling baked potatoes covered in toppings ranging from marshmallows to mac and cheese.
"We have been in this business for a long time, and in order to stay relevant, you have to do something no one else is doing," said Janousek.
Still, organizers stressed the fair's original goal since 1874: promoting agriculture.
Continuing the tradition this year with the theme "Boots, Barns, and Banjos," the grounds' World War II hangars feature local fauna and livestock, and five stages host local musicians.
"The theme best typifies what we do here," said Barbara Quaid, fair CEO. "We are about putting on boots when you go to a rodeo. We have multiple barns. And the banjo represents the great entertainment we always offer.
"Agriculture goes towards every department. If it's not for agriculture, you wouldn't even have your deep-fried bacon or anything."
Yet, at least for 10-year old Ventura native Kenya Vasquez, it is the simple values of the country that make fairgoers come back every year. She spoke of her grandmother, one of over 2,000 volunteers at the fair.
"The rides, hay, and everything is fun, but here I can actually spend time with family who I don't see much during the year," she said, speaking over screams from the hay maze. "It's just great."


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