Merced County Fair opens with lowered general admission price

By AMEERA BUTT
abutt@mercedsunstar.com
June 13, 2012 

Sarah and Charlie Pochop were walking through the concessions and food aisle, or the "midway," with their four kids at the Merced County Fair on Wednesday.

They bring their kids to the fair every year because of the family- friendly atmosphere.

"It's a good environment," said Charlie Pochop, 24. "It's once a year, can't miss it."

He said his children -- ranging in age from 2- to 6-years-old -- enjoy Kiddieland, where all the games and rides are located. Pochop said the fair allows for some "quality time with the kids."

The 121st Merced County Fair started its five-day run when the main gate opened at 5 p.m. Wednesday, featuring food, entertainment, livestock competitions, carnival rides and more.

Hector Fregoso of Planada said he always brings his family to the fair. "It gets better every year," he said.

This year, he not only brought his three kids, but three nephews too. There was one area his family couldn't pass up Wednesday night. "The kids like the rides," Fregoso said.

Diane Conway, marketing manager for the fair, said advance tickets were being sold right up until Tuesday -- and now the fun can begin.

"Opening day is always exciting," she said. "It's the first day after all this work and anticipation and excitement."

In 2010, the fair was a six-day event, but last year organizers switched to a five-day schedule for the first time to try to save money in a difficult economy, she said.

"Attendance was down just a bit (last year), but it's hard to compare because we moved to a five-day fair," she said.

Organizers are hoping to top last year's turnout of about 70,000 people.

To make sure as many people as possible could afford to come to the fair, general admission was lowered to $5. The price was reduced 50 percent from last year's general admission.

Kids 5 years old and younger will continue to get in free.

The reduced admission price is a response to the difficult economic times facing the region's residents, according to organizers. In another budget-minded move, the general admission price covers the cost of all outdoor theater concerts.

An additional $5 will be charged for all main events in the grandstand arena, except Sunday, when the main event will cost $30 at the entrance.

"I think it's going to be a great fair," Conway said.

The Merced County Fair has been a local tradition with a heavy emphasis on agriculture since it began in 1891.

Mia Espinoza, 6, was at the fair with her mother and aunt, Maira Pulido.

"I like to see the goats," Espinoza said with a smile. "I like to see the pigs. And eat the funnel cakes."

The family comes every so often to the fair from Le Grand, said her mother, Maribel Pulido.

"It's a really friendly place for the children. We like the petting zoo," Maribel Pulido said. "We see a lot of our friends and people we know."

Reporter Ameera Butt can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or abutt@mercedsunstar.com.

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