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California's Merced County Spring Fair Continues to be a Big Hit

Butler Amusements Provided the Midway

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In Merced County, Calif., there are not one, but but two fairs, one haralding Spring and the other, Summer, the Merced Spring Fair is located in Atwater and the Merced County Fair, which follows the spring fair a month later, in Merced

Sporting the theme “Barn in the USA”, the Merced County Spring Fair, which ran May 3 to May 7, was celebrating its 131st year. A kick-off dinner and dance started the Spring Fair season in late April.

The event, held at the fairgrounds in Atwater, featured livestock competitions from pigs to sheep, goats and cattle to rabbits, quilting, photography, and everything from a cheesecake competition to bacon bites, salsa, and homemade pasta sauce competitions. Kids had their chance to shine, too, with the Kids Best Ever Baking Contest. There were arts and crafts and photography exhibitions too.

Attendance at the fair has doubled in recent years at the Atwater, Calif. event. This year, Butler Amusements carnival ride wrist bands sold for $30. Friday was kids' day with all children admitted free. When purchased pre-event online, a family entry pack for two kids and two adults was priced at $25. Regular family pricing was $40 for two adults and two children. Individual ticket pricing was $15 for adults and $5 for kids at the gate. Before 5 p.m. daily, seniors and veterans were admitted free, afterwards $15. There was free shuttle bus service to the fair from in-town shopping center locations from the city's The Bus, including from Food4Less, which was the event's sponsor. The ride service also held a drawing for riders to win a new bike.

And, speaking of rides, carnival midway, provided by Butler Amusements, was a big hit.  Along with thrill and family rides, there were also kiddie rides. Separate from the carnival, a Kid's Zone of attractions with games was operated. Kids also had the chance to compete in Kids' Tractor Pulls.

On the midwayl, rides ranged from the thrill of the Zilerator coaster and the Himalya to the Giant Wheel, a carousel, and gentle twirling dinosaurs for the small fries. The Giant Wheel was a big draw. Along with rides, games were available for fair attendees, including basketball hoops, the Flamethrower ball toss, and water races. Photo booths were another popular attraction.

There were daily performances from the Alaskan racing pigs, and the farm experience of the Henry Miller Family Farm. Live entertainment was also a part of the mix. Daily performers included the Disneyland Dancers, Flo the Clown, Jimmy the Juggler, The Balloon Man, and hypnotist Chris Mabrey. At the fairgrounds' Coors/Coors Light Arena, popular truck and tractor pulls and a Demolition Derby event drew large crowds on different days. Those events were ticketed separately at $25. Also held at the arena but offered free of charge, a rodeo event from Jaripeo Ranchero proved a popular attraction.

Free concerts at the outdoor stage were held nightly and included Outlaw Mariachi; a tribute to country performer Jason Aldean “Take a Little Ride;” tribute band Bad Jovi offering a riff on the Jersey rockers; The Music of Bad Company; and Banda Rancho Viejo.

Traditional fair food was a favorite including corn dogs, ice cream, and cotton candy. Warm cinnamon rolls were another favorite, as was iced coffee. The purveyor of those cinnamon rolls, Dane Baldwin, has been at the fair for over forty years. Along with the rolls, another popular treat was kettle corn. Coveted treats from other vendors included Chinese food and grilled chicken strips with fries, funnel cakes, nachos, and churros. Hawaiian shaved ice and horchata were among the sought-after beverages.

Anticipation for the event ran high, continuing community excitement which built last year, heralding the Spring Fair's return after two years of closure due to the pandemic. That anticipation paid off in a strong draw of attendees both at the fair and for the May Day parade which ran through town on Saturday. Featuring grand marshal, Los Banos native and longtime Spring Fair Board Member Paul Parreira, Sr. the parade ended at the fairgrounds. This year's event ran Saturday morning from 9 to 11, when the fair and carnival grounds opened.

The livestock exhibits and auctions brought in over $900,000 this year as of the 10th of May.

Spring Fair manager Guy Gary, who took the position last year, has yet to confirm attendance at the event, but it was expected to have reached 75,000 fairgoers.

The Merced Spring Fair is a precursor to summer's Merced County Fair, which runs June 7th through the 11th.  The carnival at that event will also be offered by Butler Amusements, who will be offering new rides such as the Dino Loop fun house and Giant Scooters. Tickets were already on sale for the Merced County Fair when the Spring Fair began.

The Merced County Fair will present national concert acts with music including Smashmouth, Lonestar, and Banda Machos. The theme for that fair is “Everyone Come Celebrate.” The carnival for the June event is still offering discounted early-bird wristbands for $33, with regular pricing at $38. General fair admission is $10, and kids 12 and under are free for this event.
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