Thousands of school-aged children with balloons tied to their wrists roamed the exhibit halls of the fairgrounds Wednesday morning during opening day of the Merced County Spring Fair.
As the 10 o’clock hour rolled around, members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion, raised the flags at the same time as longtime fair participant Gene Brandi raised his trumpet proudly blaring “Call to Colors.”
Fair manager Ron Brandt said the kickoff to the 125th edition of the fair is going well.
“Today is already really big,” he said. “It looks like we’re going to have great weather through the weekend.”
Organizers are hopeful this year the community will see the fair as an opportunity to learn about the Central Valley’s rich agricultural heritage.
Fair board president, Jonathan Andrews, said the fair is not only a place to educate but also to recognize the youth within Merced County.
“For the projects that they have been a part of,” he said. “Whether it be in the livestock or whether it be in the home projects, it’s to highlight those things.”
The revamped Little Hands exhibit is one example of where locals will see how agriculture plays a huge role in the area, Andrews added.
Meyers Water Bank and Wildlife project donated an oversized map of California that shows where Los Banos gets its water, along with a drip irrigation demonstration and examples of how the community can help save water.
Grand Marshal Ron Alberti said the fair is also the perfect opportunity to spend time with people he doesn’t see regularly.
“This is homecoming week for us,” he said. “A lot of people come back to this fair because they get to see old friends. This is like a class reunion for the whole community.”
As this year’s grand marshal, Alberti said his main goal is to have people leave the fair happy and want to return next year.
The Merced County Fair runs through Sunday and attendance is expected to reach about 75,000.
The West Side fair generates more than $7 million, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s 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.
Adult day passes (ages 13 and older) 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 at 403 F St.