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Fair grandstand entertainment includes rodeo, trailer races, auto racing

There will be five nights of "Saddle Up For Fun" action at the 2011 Merced County Fair's Grandstand, July 15-19.

Admission to all Grandstand shows is free with the price of admission except Sunday's Gran Jaripeo. All shows start at 7 p.m. except Sunday's Gran Jaripeo.

The line-up will be filled with horsepower and horse power from start to finish! Wednesday, June 15 will kick off the first of two nights of back-to-back auto racing at The Merced Speedway. It's Mercy Medical Center Seniors' Day and seniors 65 and better get $2 off admission.

The top 20 DIRT car "Modified" stock car drivers in the point standings as of Sunday, June 12, will be qualified for the feature event on the fair's first day. The "Valley Sportsman" retro Modifieds and "Four Bangers" front wheel drive/four cylinder engines divisions join the Modifieds in the three-feature 90-minute show. "The Mods are really popular -- we'll have plenty of cars," said John Soares, Merced Speedway's promoter.

On Thursday, June 16, a new event, "Trailer Races," debuts at The Speedway racetrack. On EECU Kids' Day, children 12 and under get free admission. "It's like a rolling destruction derby, only the cars are hauling trailers and boats. There will be stuff scattered all over the racetrack, " said Soares. "It's the last man standing who wins the race.

Sometimes all you have left is the nose of a boat or the winning car might cross the finish line with just an axle. It's pretty exciting."

The Speedway's top hobby stock division drivers will be racing to qualify to compete in the trailer races. The top six drivers will each jump into a beefed up street car that's hitched to a travel trailer or a boat on a trailer and they'll race for the checkered flag, towing their load behind them. The goal is to finish the race with something left to tow across the finish line.

On Friday, June 17, Emanuel Medical Center Day, the Rodeo will kick off with pre-rodeo festivities including the crowning of Miss Merced County Fair Rodeo Queen and a recognition ceremony honoring the rodeo's Grand Marshal, Joe Cortez. A lifelong Merced resident, Cortez rose through the ranks of the Merced Police Department and retired as a station commander. He also is a former Merced City Councilman, who has been involved in many community organizations.

The rodeo will feature the CCPRA all-around best champion riders including top rider, Blake Hirdes -- he's also the association's all-around champion in team roping and calf roping. Because the Merced County Fair's Rodeo is the only CCPRA sanctioned event that day, it's a big draw, said Mike Mora, who puts the Merced Rodeo together. "I guarantee most of the CCPRA points leaders will be there because there isn't another CCPRA rodeo event that day in the state of California."

The rodeo entertainment line-up also will include some trick and fancy riding performed by "The Daredevil Sweethearts" of Redding. The team of four women will perform several daring feats on horseback including the "Cossack Death Drag," "The Hippodrome Stand," "One Foot Stand," "Fender Drag" and more.

On Saturday, Merced Sun-Star Day, Humpz & Hornz Bull Riding Tour, will put on a show that' will be action-packed from start to finish, said Wes Ibrahimi of LeGrand, who heads up the event.

The production will star up to 30 bull riders and the top six bull riders will be brought back to compete in a championship round on six of the Professional Bull Rider World Finals bulls. One of those bulls will be "Little Hummer" -- this bull has a 100 percent "buck off" rate, meaning this bull has never been ridden before!

Also performing at the Bull Riding event will be the National Rodeo Finals entertainer and professional rodeo clown, Charlie "Too Tall" West. California Bull Riding Circuit Finals announcer, Ted Dwyer, of Merced will do the announcing. The Kern County Cowgirls drill team will perform during the opening ceremonies festivities.

On Sunday, the Grandstand entertainment line-up will feature Gran Jaripeo starring Ezequiel Pena, singing while riding his Andalusian horse. The band, Arkangel R-15, also will entertain the Grandstand crowd and there will be bull riding, as well, in this 3-hour show that starts at 5 p.m.

Admission to the Gran Jaripeo is in addition to general fair admission. Advance tickets cost $15 each and are available at the following Merced locations: Rancho San Miguel Market; Carniceria Vallarta, Prestigio Jewelers at Merced Mall and Fantastic Furniture. In Fresno, tickets are available at The Rainbow Ballroom. Tickets at the door are $20. For information, call (559) 289-7771.