Despite the unrelenting heat, hundreds of people ready to enjoy a night of music, food and games made their way to the opening of the 123rd annual Merced County Fair on Wednesday.
While children rushed to be the first ones in line for their favorite carnival ride, adults began to form lines to get a bite at one of several food stands.
The gates opened officially at 5 p.m., but many arrived at the fairgrounds earlier in the day.
Don and Suzanne King from Atwater arrived at 10 a.m. to support their son who took part in the market and showmanship livestock competition for swine. They were accompanied by their two daughters who waited anxiously for the booths and rides to open up.
“It’s been a long day, and it’s been hot, but it’s been fun,” Don King said. “We’re out here every year because we usually have a family member participating in the livestock show.”
“It’s also a great way to spend some family time,” Suzanne King added. “We look forward to it every year because we know it’ll be a good time.”
Similarly, Rebecca Ybarra of Merced said going to the fair has become a tradition for her family. She was there as soon as the gates opened to see her 8-year-old daughter play the drums with the Our Lady of Mercy Catholic School band.
“We love the fair,” Ybarra said. “I think it’s a big part of our community, and it’s a symbol of summer.”
“Sometimes there are people you haven’t seen in a while, but then you run into them in the fair. It’s great,” Ybarra added.
Merced resident Gloria Campbell said it was her third year attending the fair and she plans to attend more than once this week.
“I have a 10-year-old and he loves coming here. It’s just a great place for children,” Campbell said. “And the food is delicious. First thing I have to have is a jumbo corn dog and iced lemonade – that’s just a must.”
Besides food, rides, game booths and livestock shows, people were also able to enjoy a tractor parade, a petting zoo, henna body art, psychic readers and an arts center for children.
Wednesday’s entertainment was headlined by contemporary Christian recording artist Lincoln Brewster and hypnotist Alan Sands.
The fair will run through Sunday. Organizers encourage people to plan on attending more than one day, as it will be difficult to fit everything the fair has to offer into one visit.
Last year, about 70,000 people attended the fair throughout its run, according to Merced County Fair Marketing Manager Diane Conway. She said she hopes this year’s attendance will surpass that number.
General admission is $5. Grandstand entertainment events, including the auto races and bull riding, have a separate charge. To purchase tickets online or for a full schedule of events, go to the fair’s website at www.mercedcountyfair.com.