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See a tiger, pet a stingray at this year’s Stanislaus County Fair, starting Friday

Sure, you expect to see goats and pigs and cows at the fair. But how about stingrays and tigers and bearcats? Oh my, indeed.

The Stanislaus County Fair kicks off its 10-day run Friday with new attractions, new animals and new food. The annual summer celebration features all of the traditional favorites like the midway carnival rides, agricultural exhibits, arena events, headliner concerts and livestock competitions.

But new this year are two interactive live-animal attractions that will allow the whole family to get up close and personal with African wildcats and oceanic stingrays.

The Walk in the Wild exhibit invites guests to see exotic animals including a binturong bearcat, wallabies, Canadian lynx and a six-week-old serval cub. And then there’s the 4-year-old Siberan tiger — yes, a real tiger. Some of the wild animals can be pet, but, alas, not the tiger, for obvious reasons.

Nearby, another live-animal exhibit sure to attract crowds is the Stingray Encounter. As its name suggests, fairgoers are invited to experience the flat-bodied fish known for its signature spiny pointed tail first hand, quite literally, by touching and feeding them in a shallow pool. The exhibit features about half a dozen rays, including Atlantic stingrays, bat rays and California round-nose rays.

“We are here so kids can check them out and get to interact with an animal they might not normally (get to),” said Felipe Velarde with the Stingray Encounter. “We want them to play with them, feed them, have some fun.”

Both of the new animal attractions are free with the price of admission daily for the duration of the fair.

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For more traditional animal lovers, the 4-H Farmyard Experience has a petting zoo with pigs and goats, as well as stalls filled with other barnyard regulars like cows, sheep and rabbits.

If live music is more your thing, the Variety Free Stage features headlining acts at 8:30 p.m. each evening for free. Opening night Friday kicks off with country duo High County. Other acts include classic rockers Blood, Sweat & Tears, hip-hop group TLC, and late-’90s boy band 98 Degrees.

On the food side, all of the fried favorites will be back, and some new treats have been added. New this year to the fair is the Dole Whip booth, Texas Twister Drinks, a new loaded hot dog stand and another stall selling waffles, crepes and beignets.

“We worked really hard and found new food, new exhibits,” said Matt Cranford, Stanislaus County Fair CEO. “We wanted to turn it upside down this year and bring people something new.”

The fair runs Friday, July 12, to Sunday, July 21, and is open 5 p.m. to midnight Monday to Friday and noon to midnight Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $12 adults, $7 children/seniors, free ages 6 and younger. For more information call 209-668-1333 or visit www.stancofair.com.

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Marijke Rowland writes about new business, restaurant and retail developments. She has been with The Modesto Bee since 1997 covering a variety of topics including arts and entertainment. Her Business Beat column runs multiple times a week. And it’s pronounced Mar-eye-ke.
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