Stanislaus County Fair's fun ends a 10-day run

TURLOCK -- For Oakdale's Amy Cooper, going to this year's Stanislaus County Fair was twice as nice.

On Sunday afternoon, the Oakdale mom snapped digital photos of her two sons, Killian, 5 and Keegan, 3, as they rode on the little Ferris wheel in the children's carnival area.

It was the second trip the family made to the Turlock fairgrounds in a week. Cooper said she wanted the boys to have as much fun as possible, so she decided to bring them again Sunday, the final day of the fair's 10-day run.

Scores of people took advantage of the day's picture-perfect weather to attend the county fair's last day, well before the crowds typically turn out in the evening.

Alex and Lindsey Richards of Newman and their 4½-year-old son, Nathan, had been at the fairgrounds for less than an hour, but had gone through the Jurassic Journey dinosaur display, visited the children's art project exhibit and sipped on a cold cherry Icee.

Sunday was the first and only day the Richards family attended the fair because work commitments kept them busy during the week. For them, the early afternoon was a good time to go because there were no crowds or long lines.

Like the Cooper family, Modesto's Rick Hansen came two days.

On Saturday, Hansen, his wife and her friends went to the fair to see The Temptations. He also treated his group to massages at the fair.

But when he returned Sunday, it was all about the kids.

He brought two of his daughters, 20-year-old Alina and 7-year-old Makayla, and two of Makayla's friends and purchased $50 worth of ride coupons for them. Big sister Alina shepherded the youngsters around the midway and watched as they boarded the rides of their choice.

Alina said attending the fair is a summertime ritual.

"Last year, I came just about every day," she said as she snacked on cotton candy. "I like it because it's a positive place to for teens to hang out and not get into trouble."

For dad Rick, attending twice was an affordable luxury.

"I didn't spend too much money," he said. "Probably spent about $90 Saturday night and $50 today for the rides and such."

To some, that might sound like a lot, but Hansen said he usually takes the family to Disneyland during the summer. So his time at the fair cost a lot less than a trip to Southern California.

"And," he added, "I paid all my bills before I got here and spent any money."

Fair organizers were very conscious of providing quality and affordable entertainment for families, said fair spokeswoman Pennie Rorex. Attendance figures should be available today, and a financial report in about a month, she said.

From the dinosaur exhibit, to the concert series and more, "Nearly everything was included with the price of admission," she said. "There are very few places where you can get that much for free. People look to us every year for that value."

Some vendors remarked that despite a shaky economy and tight financial times, they did not notice a decrease in sales compared with previous years.

Linda Mileham, owner of Old Tyme Photos, where people dress up in antique Western gear and pose for black and white photos for $16.50, said business was better than last year.

"(Sales have) been down at most of the other fairs for us, but not here," she said. "It's been great. We have families who visit us every year and take a portrait."

Willing to part with their cash

Nathan Mayfield of Merced, who worked at the Bank-A-Ball game booth in the carnival midway, said he didn't notice a decrease in players compared with previous years. There was no shortage of players willing to part with their money for a chance to win a prize.

Authorities said by early Sunday evening, no major incidents had occurred during the fair's run.

"It was a typical year in terms of security," said Lt. Tim Beck of the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department, who was manager of fair security. "The weather has been awesome. We owe a lot to Mother Nature."

Bee staff writer Donna Birch can be reached at dbirch@modbee.com or 578-2309.