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Yuma County Fair Wrap-Up
Five action-packed days

5/1/2013

By Alvin Malpaya

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Year after year, people flock to the Yuma County Fair for a vast array of attractions. For five short days, the fairgrounds is teeming with strolling magicians, clowns and stuntmen. They have livestock shows and auctions, petting zoos and pony rides. There are musicians of many genres, a midway with many rides and, this year, they even had monkeys with - yes - many tricks. And, of course, there's the demolition derby, which never disappoints the thousands upon thousands of onlookers overflowing the bleachers of the grandstand.

To put it plainly, so many things are packed into so little time.

In the midst of all of this, however, is a small but irresistible attraction that does much more than its fair share to boost attendance. It's relatively unassuming, measuring about four cubic inches, but, in a way, it's a microcosm of the fair itself: jam-packed with delight, short but incredibly sweet, somehow gone before you know it.

And if the fair were to ever show up without it?

"We'd probably have an uprising," said Eric Wofford, the Yuma County Fair's general manager.

Yuma County FairWofford was referring of course to those beloved cinnamon rolls - or, more specifically, those beloved Old West Cinnamon Rolls. Although Wofford has only been the general manager since late 2010, he's a lifelong resident of Yuma and knows better than to draft the county fair plans without them.

"I would say at least 40 years they've been here," Wofford said. "They've been here longer than I can remember, and I grew up in the 4-H and FFA side of it when I was a kid showing animals."

The cinnamon rolls are one of many staples of the Yuma County Fair, which, like all good county fairs, succeeds yearly in blending tradition with novelty, history with innovation, the charm of the county with the radiance of the world.

So while such staples are supplied in abundance, Wofford and his staff  are "always changing things up and bringing something different every year."

Perhaps this year's most notable "different" thing was Capt'n Jack Spareribs, also known as "the Original Pirate 4 Hire," whose eerie resemblance to Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow must be the cause of many a whispered debate during his pirate show.

Performing twice a day during each of the fair's five days - from April 2 to April 7 - the wisecracking Capt'n Jack Spareribs dazzled the audience with a mixture of magic, ventriloquy and good old-fashioned comedy. One skit saw him place a volunteer into a guillotine and, as the volunteer kneeled there helplessly, the good captain told him, "I did say I needed someone brave, right? So on the way up here, you should've known this a very dangerous place to be headed."

"He was a great addition," Wofford beamed. "He did a fantastic job. What a great show he had - very well received by the audience. He had a packed crowd almost every show."

Other acts that highlighted this year's stage show entertainment included Lanky the Clown, Wild About Monkeys, the hypnotist Tyzen - an ultrapopular fair staple who Wofford described as being on par with the cinnamon rolls - and the comedian stuntman, Matt Baker, whose resume includes five Guinness World Records.

Baker's many talents apparently include marketing and promotion. "Where else are you going to see someone catch a bowling ball on their head?" Baker stated in a locally televised interview. "For a dollar! It's a dollar to get in today."

Opening day was Dollar Day, the fair's most successful promotion. For the final four days, admission at the gate was $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 6 to 12. Children up to age 5 were admitted at no charge.

The accessible prices helped to maintain the fair's solid attendance numbers. Wofford confirmed that attendance this year hovered around 168,000, the same figure as last year, a very impressive turnout given that Yuma County's population is just north of 200,000.

Another successful promotion was pre-sale discount ride tickets - a book of 30 ride tickets for $15 - which were available on limited supply starting February 18.

"We typically sell out in a month," Wofford said. "This year we actually started a week later, planning on trying to get it closer to the fair, and we actually sold out a week earlier than we ever have. That was really exciting."

The midway at the Yuma County Fair was provided by Brown's Amusements out of Mesa, Ariz., an affiliation that has satisfied Yuma fairgoers for 15 years. With the Evolution remaining as its flagship ride, this year's midway matched last year's in terms of revenue, according to Wofford.

One aspect of the fair that saw an uptick in attendance was the demolition derby. "We can seat probably close to 10,000 people and there were people lined all the way around it - at a safe distance, obviously - but we ran out of bleacher seating quite early," Wofford said.

Susye Erwin emerged as the derby winner, only the second female in Yuma County's history to win this event. "It's insane," Erwin said moments after her victory. "It's indescribable ... I can't stop shaking."

The audience was treated to quite a show, an action-packed derby with a few small fires and one car actually flipping over. Several spectators have already uploaded footage of the derby onto YouTube and the emerging consensus is that this year's demolition derby was one of the best ever.

"The demolition derby was a great success," Wofford said, "as it is every year." As is the Yuma County Fair, which, in its 61st year, brought the perfect mix of old and new and showed no signs of slowing down.

CLICK HERE to view photos from the 2012 Yuma County Fair

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