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Ole It's Fiesta Time: The California Mid-State Fair
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Despite triple-digit heat, the California Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles had attendance numbers that were slightly higher than the 428,615 from the official fair attendance tally in 2017. While the exact count for 2018 isn’t yet available, concert ticket sales were strong and there was increased revenue from livestock auctions this year. According to California Mid-State Fair CEO Michael Bradley, attendees were highly enthusiastic about the fair, regardless of the temperatures, with concerts, a newly improved carnival, and a wide variety of attractions keeping fairgoers smiling. Ole! indeed.

Concerts were a large draw, with more than 78,000 tickets sold for performers including Demi Lovato, Pitbull, Florida Georgia Line and Tim McGraw. Eric Church and Luke Bryan, both country stars, sold out their shows. While having two sell-out shows was new for the fair, high profile music acts are always a strong part of the fair’s profile.

The final weekend finished with KC and the Sunshine Band on Friday; the country rodeo along with Kris Kristofferson Saturday; and a new fair event called “Bikes, Bulls, and Pulls” concluded the fair’s entertainment on its final Sunday.
“Bikes, Bulls, and Pulls” was produced by Cotton Rosser and Flying U Rodeo Company. The event was designed, Bradley says, to be packed with action, including motocross events, pro bull riding, and a tractor and truck pull featuring the well-known “Legacy” tractor from Cal Poly. This was a separately ticketed event, priced at $25 for adults and $15 for children.

Fairgoers were also busy with carnival rides, showing their enthusiasm with a 5% increase in revenue from 2017 and 6.5% increase in the pre-sale of WOW ride passes. This year the fair had a new carnival provider, Helm and Sons Amusements, Inc. of Colton, Calif., with two separate carnival areas, the main midway and a new attraction, Cub Country, with rides focusing on young children.

WOW! was the tagline for the carnival this year, with Helm and Sons Amusements stating their goal was to have riders use the word describing their experience at the midway. With that in mind, there were new rides such as a Beach Party Funhouse, a high-speed Sleighride, and the drop-ride Shockwave, as well as the spinning heights of Star Tower, billed as the tallest swing ride in the U.S. And, for the little ones, a Cub Country glass house and the Bubba Bear Jamboree show. Individual ride tickets were sold for .50 cents, and the pre-sale wristbands priced at $35. The WOW pre-sale passes were $25, and also included two-for-one game play, a free prize, and a free popcorn.

Regular general admission pricing for the fair was $12 for adults, $10 for seniors 62 and up, $8 for children. Pre-sale discounts brought those prices to $10 for adults, $9 for seniors, and $7 for children. A seniors’ day on Tuesday July 24th reduced senior admission to $6. Albertsons, Vons, and Grocery Outlet stores offered even larger pre-sale discounts. In addition, 12-day fair passes were $50 for adults and $30 for kids, with pre-sales offered at $50 and $25 respectively.

One of the most popular attractions this year was a first-time event, the Showcase of Cities display. Ten different cities plus the County of San Luis Obispo and CALPoly University we a part of this series of animated displays positioned in the showcase windows of Frontier Town’s Frontier Pavilion. Displays featured the best of each community, designed to encourage visits to specific attractions. The People’s Choice Award winner was Oceano/Nipomo.
Also new, according to Bradley: the Paso Robles Pavilion, with over 10,000-square-feet of exhibition space. And in terms of the fair’s infrastructure, there were other firsts, too: with more shaded covering, more benches for attendees to relax on, and even more flowers planted for the event, beautifying the exhibition space.

The fair hosted a slew of new attractions, too. Among the most popular: the Hall of Bugs, Wild West Turkey Stampede, and the Tomatoes, Tortoises & Treasures exhibition. Livestock auctions were also a big draw, with a 5% increase in overall funds raised.

Oenophiles celebrated at the Central Coast Wine Competition, at which Paso Robles’ Cass Vineyard & Winery was named the 2018 Winery of the Year, while Best in Show went to Alara Cellars’ 2017 Grenache Blanc.
And it wasn’t just wine that received top taste honors, olive oil, vinegar, craft spirits, and the first ever Craft Beer Tasting Night and Awards brought out the experts. Brendan Gough, Head Brewer of Central Coast Brewing, was named Brewmaster of the Year. The craft beer event was separately ticketed and included local brewery tastings.

Additional competitive fun included The Country Rodeo Finals, which featured top cowboys and cowgirls in events from bronc and bull riding to team penning, barrel racing, and mixed ribbon roping events among others. There were lively specialty events too such as Canadian Chuckwagon racing, and a performance by the renowned rodeo clown Matt Merritt.

Along with the rodeo, there were the Miss California Mid-State Fair, and the Strongest Man and Woman Competition. The latter was a new event featured this year, with categories from lightweight to heavyweight.
Another unique feature of the fair this year was a fair within the fair -The Career Fair featuring Local Unions 104, 155, 403, 433 and 639, which Bradley terms a big success with a variety of apprentice programs explained to job-hunters.

More potential career choices were presented with “Hands-On Farming, Joe Sabol Experience” featuring the “Learn by Doing” agricultural master.

And what fair would be truly a success without fair food? The Mid-State Fair had a bevy of brand new concession favorites this year, including booths like Baja Lobster Dogs, Pon’s Chinese Food, and The Gingerbread Shop. Naturally, classics like corn dogs and hot dogs – extra-long ones, weight in at a half a pound - were also popular. Deep fried avocado bites and slushees in a wide range of flavors were also hits.

Opened in 1946 and formerly known as the San Luis Obispo County Fair, the fair runs every July for 12 days.
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