LOS BANOS — The Merced County Spring Fair kicked off its 123rd opening Wednesday by honoring veterans and a dairyman integral to giving fairgoers a memorable first impression as they enter the gates.
There was a moment of silence for Emil Alberti, who died recently. Alberti spent his life in the dairy industry and was a leader in dairy projects throughout Los Banos. He was leader with 4-H and dairy projects at the fair. He planted and watered the flowers in the front of the fairgrounds each year.
The ceremony also honored veterans. Members of the local chapters of Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion raised the American flag and led the crowd in the pledge of allegiance. As they do each year, Christine and Gene Brandi sang the national anthem as veterans saluted the Old Glory.
Brett Silva, fair board president, welcomed everyone. He gave credit for the annual success of the fair to his fellow board members and staff who are working the five-day event.
"Anybody that comes through these gates, this group is a hard-working group and they do their best to make this an enjoyable event," Silva said. "The whole board, we do our very best every year to make this fair the best we can for the public, for the exhibitors and for the animals."
Mayor Mike Villalta joked about the weather as some in attendance made sure their hats and fair food didn't blow away.
"In Los Banos you have three choices of weather: rainy, windy or hot. Fortunately, we got one of the best of the three, which is windy," Villalta said. "This is always a great event. It is the lifeblood of Los Banos."
Miss May Day Cassandra Camacho and her court, Dominique Alvarez and Ashley Souza, said they are excited about attending the Tiny Princess contest. The trio have helped the contestants, who are between 5 and 8 years old, rehearse for their roles in the competition.
This year's grand marshals are Dollie and Jerry O'Banion. Dollie O'Banion said she's most looking forward to watching her granddaughter show swine. Jerry O'Banion, whose father also served as a grand marshal in the past, said it's thrilling to have multiple generations of his family involved in the Merced County Spring Fair.
"This is a special occasion I enjoy every year, coming to the fair. I've been coming for over 50 years," Jerry O'Banion said.
The fair, at 403 F St. in Los Banos, runs through Sunday.