Last day for Stanislaus County Fair

Turlock native Brett Nichols dances to the music of Michael Jackson during the Stanislaus County Fair in Turlock Calif., on Saturday July 19, 2014.
Turlock native Brett Nichols dances to the music of Michael Jackson during the Stanislaus County Fair in Turlock Calif., on Saturday July 19, 2014. aalfaro@modbee.com

The 103rd Stanislaus County Fair wraps up today with livestock awards, a light show set to Beatles music and the mariachi stylings of Ezequiel Peña.

Activities begin at 10 a.m. with the awards, sure to be packed with green 4-H ties and blue FFA jackets. Livestock auctions took place Saturday, their nonstop, lilting litany of prices rising from two arenas. Young exhibitors lined up for the sales, straightening uniforms and coaxing animals forward.

Back in the barn, 10-year-old Ashlyn Machado of Hickman stood by Nick, the steer she raised from a calf. Now 1,340 pounds, Nick dwarfed the young handler who fed, watered and brushed him twice a day, scratching his belly to keep him mellow.

A few aisles over, Paul Etcheverry, 13, of Waterford, stood with his grand champion, a well-muscled wether (the goat equivalent of a steer) named Rocky. Etcheverry walked Rocky on a treadmill for three weeks, rounding out months of training in bracing, the goat equivalent of a body builder’s stance.

Rocky’s grand title paired nicely with his owner’s First in Class for showmanship, and would likely raise Rocky’s price per pound to the $10 range, Paul noted matter-of-factly. “As my dad says, every animal on a farm has a purpose,” Etcheveryy said.

Far from the folksy, farm casual of the barns, Turlock YouTube phenom Brett Nichols and 13 dancers practicing for his next video put on a five-act show pulsing with a Michael Jackson beat on the Community Stage. The 6-foot-2, 135-pound Nichols moonwalked through his Pitman High talent show hit “Billie Jean,” and zombie dancers made the stage shake with “Thriller.”

Donna Nichols said her son never took dance lessons. “He has fun with it,” she said. But with his newfound success, the Pitman senior is planning a career in dance, she said.

By evening, fairgoers tired of the heat were relaxing at the horticulture building, where cool breezes and the splash of a waterfall beckoned. On benches over the pond, Cynthia Rios of Ripon styled her daughter’s hair while her family recuperated from the heat of the barns. Up next, she said, “The food!”

At the Mommy & Me building behind the farmers market, Rachel Spahnn relaxed in a recliner while her 2-year-old nephew played. “We’re all tired, and he’s getting sleepy,” said Spahnn, visiting from Los Angeles.

After the fair closes tonight, the carnival will pack up and leave by morning, said Adrenna Alkhas, fair director of marketing. Plants at the horticulture exhibits will be sold Monday and all the vendors and nonprofit sellers will pack up over the next few days. The barns will be cleaned and all the buildings and bathrooms scrubbed before renters arrive for the first event in August, she said.

The annual, 10-day fair employs 550 people, working in shifts around the clock. Downtown Turlock gets a business boost, and a segment on the Food Network’s “Carnival Eats” series will show off the area in a positive light, Alkhas said. But her favorite part of the fair “is the community coming together and looking at the excitement on people’s faces,” she said.

“I’m going to hate it on Monday,” Alkhas said. “It’s like a big get-together and then your family leaves.”