LOS BANOS — The Merced County Spring Fair returns to the Los Banos fairgrounds today, featuring entertainment, rides, games, food and an abundance of competitions for FFA and 4-H livestock exhibitors.
The fair runs until Sunday, and attendance is expected to reach about 75,000 at the annual event.
The West Side fair generates more than $7 million, according to the California Department of Food and Agricultures fairs and expositions division.
The Merced County Spring Fair is part of a network of California fairs that generate more than $2.5 billion in economic activity.
As the fair enters its 125th year, management is striving to continue in the face of budget cuts.
About three years ago, the state stopped funding the fair system. Local businesses and the Merced County Spring Fair Heritage Foundation have stepped in to raise enough to continue to pay more than $40,000 in prize money for youth projects ranging from ag mechanics to livestock.
Fundraisers have been critical in operating the fair and attracting talent.
The fair also generates business tax revenue from the additional activity during its five-day run, money spent by its visitors and other events on the fairgrounds throughout the year.
More than 6,000 students come to the fair through the free school tour program, which provides them with hands-on lessons about agriculture.
New this year is Jaripeo Ranchero, a bull-riding rodeo, scheduled for Thursday.
What began as a spring picnic by town founder Henry Miller in 1890 has grown into an energetic community event supported by businesses, local organizations and families.
This years fair theme is Growing Our Heritage. Adult day passes (ages 13 and up) at the gate are $9; youth day passes (ages 6 to 12) at the gate are $3. Children 5 and under are free.
The Los Banos fairgrounds are located at 403 F St.
For more information about the fair, including a list of attractions and a daily schedule of events, visit www.co.merced.ca.us/index.aspx?NID=88.