Stanislaus County Fair on a budget

TURLOCK — Everyone's cutting back these days, but folks still want to have fun.

According to a story in Sunday's USA Today, people looking to have a good time on a budget are turning to county fairs.

"The economy worked in our favor, because so many people were staying home and looking for a lot of bang for their buck," Linda Zweig, spokeswoman for the San Diego County Fair, told the newspaper. Attendance for San Diego's 22-day run was 1,274,442, beating the record of 1,265,997 in 2007.

The Stanislaus County Fair began its 10-day run Friday.

And although visiting the fair still can be a pricey proposition, there are several ways to cut costs without cutting the fun.

Of course, if you planned ahead, you bought discount admission tickets and ride wristbands in advance from the fair's Web site, But even if you didn't, there are bargains to be had.

Consider what two families visiting the fair could spend this year.

Expensive trip to the fair for a family of four:

  • Pay $4 to park at the fairgrounds
  • Admission: $10 adults, $3 for children ages 6 to 12 — $26
  • Rides for the kids: $1 per coupon; most rides take three to five coupons — $70 to $100 for 10 rides
  • Money: Getting cash at the on-site automated teller machine — $3.95 service charge
  • Attractions: See the Destruction Derby or Motocross — $10 each, $40
  • Eats: Four sampler dinners at All-American Wild West Bar-B-Que — $55.80
  • Bottled water — $3 each ($12)
  • Total — At least $211.75
  • Budget trip to the fair:

    • Park at Pitman High School or California State University, Stanislaus, and take the free shuttle — $0
  • Admission: On weeknights, visit Taco Bell for a $2 off coupon for adults. On Saturday and Sunday, send a text message "3off" to the fair (the number is 47645) for $3 off adult admission. On Kids Night, Thursday, those 12 and younger are admitted free — $16 on Thursday.
  • Rides for the kids: Unlimited wristband $30 — $60
  • Money: Bring cash.
  • Attractions: Go to the rodeo. Visit the farm animals and the 4-H Farmyard Experience. Walk through the rain forest exhibit. See a free concert — $0
  • Eats: Split the sampler between the adults (it comes with beef, chicken, tri-tip, pork, spare rib, beans, salad, a roll and butter). Get the kids an 11-inch "Monster" corn dog to share ($8), and a shake at the 4-H Milk Barn ($3.50) — $25.45
  • Bottled water: Attendees can bring bottled water from home — $0
  • Freebie: Be one of the first 1,000 visitors and you get a gift at the entrance
  • Total: At least $101.45
  • Of course, this is just a suggestion. Persuade the kids to skip the rides and you can cut the cost by more than half.

    Lots of folks maintain that the best part of the fair is the people watching. And the animal watching. And that's available for the best price of all — free.

    Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at 578-2343 or

    Related stories from Merced Sun-Star