TURLOCK -- Rachel Berry won a stuffed dog. Erin Mae Spradling won a blue ribbon. And Mike Muncy won a fiancée.
The 2012 Stanislaus County Fair kicked off its 10-day run Friday night with a welcome breeze in the air and temperatures mercifully lower than the previous days' 100-plus. Fairgoers streamed to traditional hot spots, including the VFW and American Legion hamburger booths, as well as several new attractions, such as the Air Maxx carnival ride.
Rachel, 8, earned her new toy by bursting a balloon at a booth on the midway. Spradling, 21, bested nine other bakers, many of them more senior than her, to come away the winner at an apple pie contest, judged by seven Stanislaus County mayors in one of the less cumbersome responsibilities of elected office.
Spradling said she's been baking since she was 15. Though apple isn't one of her favorites, "I like to make all kinds of pies."
And Muncy, winner of a contest sponsored by the fair, proposed to his girlfriend, Lorene Woodleif Novoa, in a very impressive way, via flash mob provided by young YES Company performers.
He told his girlfriend and their children that they had won tickets to the fair and he got them to the assigned spot to let the kids ride the rides and "figure out what we were going to go next."
What they were going to do next was life-changing.
As a crowd gathered around the Ferris wheel, the dancers performed a number from their upcoming "Willy Wonka" production before launching into a song that ended with "Will you marry me?"
Woodleif Novoa looked mystified when a dancer pulled Muncy into the performance, then they all turned toward her and collectively popped the question, complete with a ring provided by a local jeweler and money toward wedding flowers.
"I was like, when he got out there and danced, I figured something was going on," she said.
Many of the other bystanders who had stopped to watch the flash mob clued in that something special was happening.
"What was that?" one asked.
"I've got goose bumps," said another.
Muncy might have been a bit nervous, as well, but he had nothing to worry about: Woodleif Novoa said yes.
And, almost as important, she loved the ring. "It's beautiful," she said.
It's Seniors Free Day at the Stanislaus County Fair. Seniors 65 and older are admitted to the fair for free today. They also get a free ride on the carousel.
WHAT TO DO: Check out the photographs folks have submitted for competition. Judging of a series of photo contests takes place at 7 p.m. in the competitive exhibits building.
HIGHLIGHTS: This morning, smaller animals take center stage, with 4-H and FFA members showing rabbits and goats in the rabbit and poultry barns, livestock pavilion and dairy show ring. Those events run from 8:30 to 10 a.m.
VARIETY FREE STAGE: Foreigner, 8:30 p.m.
CENTER STAGE: The Cartel Band, 5:30 p.m., Pinky Rideau, 8 p.m.
COMMUNITY STAGE: Gotcha Covered, 6 p.m., Chris Creek Band, 8 p.m.
CHARTER STAGE: Jest in Time Circus, 3:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 8:30 p.m.
HOURS: Gates open at noon; exhibit buildings close at 11 p.m.; carnival closes at midnight.
PARK 'N' RIDE: 11:30 a.m. to midnight; park and ride free from CSU, Stanislaus, (Crowell Road off Monte Vista Avenue), or Pitman High School (Christoffersen Parkway). Shuttles run every 15-20 minutes.
WHERE: From Highway 99, exit at Fulkerth Road in Turlock and head east. For fairground parking, turn right on Soderquist Road, or go past Soderquist for more parking; $4 per vehicle.
ADMISSION: $12 for adults, $5 for children 7-12 and seniors 65 and older, free for 6 and younger.