The county fair makes its own magic, but this year's event conjures up an extra element of bewitching family fun when it comes to Turlock, July 12-21.
The Wizard's Challenge replaces the rainforest interactive science exhibit, inviting youngsters to play a spell in a medieval setting. Think Harry Potter, said Stanislaus County Fair spokeswoman Adrenna Alkhas, "You're going to get that feel."
The attraction is free after paying general admission ($5-$10), located in the Kids Zone at the Broadway and Canal Drive corner of the fairgrounds. Also in the zone, find the Lowe's projects area.
The critter zone, a education on farm animals for the asking from the kids who did the work, takes up the Canal and Soderquist Road corner. A daily rotation of livestock showing and selling keeps the barns in motion. Mosey toward the exhibit halls to see the 4-H Farmyard Experience, complete with bee hive display and hatching eggs.
And, of course, there will be plenty of musical entertainment on several stages including some big-name artists on the Variety Free Stage such as Huey Lewis and the News, Gloriana, .38 Special, Weird Al Yankovic, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, Hinder, Tower of Power, Morris Day & the Time, Clay Walker and El Coyote y su Banda and Manuel Romero. Excitement comes to the Arena with the Destruction Derby, tractor pulls, motorcycle and motocross events, a rodeo, monster trucks and mud bog.
Antique tractors and other inventions will chug away between the animals and the main hall. Nearby, toy trains will run through elaborate handmade sets made to scale by members of the Toy Train Operating Society.
Also new this year, a Farmers' Market will offer fresh fruits, vegetables, home-baked products, and lavender bath products from gate opening until 8 p.m. each day. "We partnered with Turlock Farmers' Market. I can't wait for that," Alkhas said, ticking off a list of edibles including warm roasted almonds and toffee.
Wandering the market and the midway should be atypically tolerable this year. "As far as I can tell, and I've looked at it daily, it looks like mid-90s through the fair. It's one of those things it's Mother Nature," she said.
The temptation factor of standard fair fare ramps up this year with the addition of a deep-fried 5-Alarm Burger on a Stick (Lucky 7 Concessions), jambayla and seafood gumbo (New Orleans Catering), Indian Fry Bread (Munch-a-Bunch) and Big Bubba's Bad BBQ.
The Cupcake Lady truck will follow her following onto the fairgrounds this year. Crazy-4-Nuts will crack open a cart this year as well.
All the favorite addictions will tempt fairgoers as well. Caramel apples will tug at loose teeth. Cotton candy will squish between sticky fingers. Bubbling vats will add that golden sizzle to chicken, fries, rings and funnel cakes. Longtime fair staples such as Latif's and linguica, Cajun and calamari, dipped cones and kettle corn, will be around helping give folks energy to trek the Midway.
There will be 32 rides to choose from, from the youngster-friendly kid wheel and jet ski toedgier teen attractions such as the Zillerator and Nitro. The Crown Merry Go Round will take its usual gentle twirl down memory lane.
Top thrill, judged by its 57-inch height restriction, will be the spinning-armed Energy Storm. The Giant Wheel will be available for only those 18 and older, but the Eagle 10 Ferris wheel is open to anyone 48 inches or taller (42 inches with an adult).
New this year will be a Corvettes ride, Cliff Hanger, Jump Around, Scrambler and the Orient Express.
Encircling the ride area will be souvenirs aplenty and more food for those who can find the room.
Down the walkways and spilling out of the halls will be 100 commercial exhibits, including soda samplings, and 25,000 community entries in senior, junior and 4-H/FFA divisions. From scarecrows to student-welded grills, table settings to quilts, all the best in arts and crafts is going on view.
"If you come to the fairgrounds right now, there's a lot of stuff happening," Alkhas said. Today, proud makers of the jarred or jammed will be bringing in entries. Frosting-coated and baked goods are still to come.
So many choices. So many lines. Those who like to plan out their people-packed fair experience this year can sign up for the mobile app, StanCoFair, complete with map and social media connections. It can even zero in on your location and suggest options nearby.