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Pima County Fair Rocks Out
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RCS provided the midway at the Pima County Fair

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Far out and spicy treats, big rides courtesy of Ray Cammack Shows, and eclectic concerts brought big crowds to the Pima County Fair in Tucson, Ariz. this April. The fair, promising “Sugar Fueled Fun,” ran for eleven days, April 18-28.

General admission was priced at $12, with $8 tickets for military and seniors over 55, and $6 for kids ages 6-10. Kids 5 and under were free. There were a variety of specials and discounts, such as two mid-week carnival wristband days on April 24 and 25; there was free fair admission until noon on Sunday April 21st and Sunday, April 28 with the donation of three canned food items for the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. On Monday, April 22nd, admission was discounted to $6, with Happy Hour $3 food items and $3 beer offered at Jalisco Estrella Cantina until 5 p.m. That same day, RCS offered free big wheel rides for seniors. Tuesday the 23rd all carnival rides were just $3 until 6 p.m., and happy hour was on again until 5 p.m. The happy hour event also returned on the 24th.

While admission numbers were not available at press time, they were estimated to be in line with last year's 300,000 plus attendees enjoying the fair's 640-acre grounds.

According to the fair's marketing manager Lauren Rabago, with all the discounts and specials in place, prices were lower this year than in previous iterations of the fair. “We had two food drives where we waived admission to the fair with three cans of food, and all of that goes back to the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona,” Rabago noted, also remarking on free admission for disabled guests, and the free carnival ride program for kids as part of a community reading program. The Read and Ride Program provided one Kidland ride pass per child between the ages of 5-11 when they signed up to read 3 books prior to the event.

The carnival was packed with rides for adults and kids, including not just one but two roller coasters. The Weekday Discount Fun Pass offered ten rides or games for just $20 when purchased prior to the fair's opening day. On Pepsi Wristband Day, guests arriving with an unopened 20oz bottle of Pepsi, Diet Pepsi or Zero Sugar Pepsi to benefit Gospel Rescue Mission received a $5.00 discount towards a $40.00 wristband for unlimited carnival rides and one free ride on The Titan. Ride tickets were $1.25 each and the amount needed per ride varied with The Titan requiring a top number of 14 tickets and the Goliath Slide as little as 3 tickets. A special game day offered carnival attendees five games for $15. A Fast Pass ride upgrade allowed attendees to bypass wait lines for an extra $30. RCS offered unlimited ride wristband giveaways via their Instagram and Facebook pages during the fair's run.

According to RCS vice-president Chris Lopez, there were 58 rides at the fair, which he says included “all of the favorites that Tucsonans have come to love.” The Zipper, G Force, Zero Gravity, Sling Shot (priced at $35 for the ultimate thrill), the Wild River water flume ride, and the Big Wheel were among the popular adult rides, with the Wacky Worm and VW Bugs among the hits for young kids. The Titan was the monster ride at the fair, a swing ride that takes daring riders up “17 stories.” Riders are seated upright for the experience, per RCS, for a “high-speed thrill” that offers 4Gs of force and a full height towering up 180 feet from the ground. The Pima County Fair is RCS's second event of the season, following on the heels of the Houston Livestock Show.

The carnival purveyor also offered games and midway treats, including a new-to-the-midway item, a Candy Watermelon stick, consisting of an icy large slice of watermelon “wrapped in Fruit by the Foot, drizzled with sour chamoy and sprinkled with lime tajin.” Another new fruity midway concession treat was the piña colada float at the Pineapple Whip Stand, a mix of vanilla swirl soft serve, pineapple juice, and coconut cream.

Speaking of food, there was plenty to be had throughout the fair, from Cinnamon Toast Crunch churros to Hot Cheetos Cotton Candy, the Flaming Hot Twist – a giant soft pretzel with crumbles of Hot Cheetos, fried cheesecake, a Cap'n Crunch chicken sandwich in its second year of big sales at the fair, a Hot Cheeto burger, a Hot Cheeto, pickles, and ranch pizza slice, giant hot dogs, turkey legs, Cowboy Kettle Corn, and of course, funnel cakes. The fair's two Dutchman's Funnel Cake stands offered the popular peaches and cream funnel cake topped with sliced peaches and whipped cream.

While food offerings were big, the music on hand was even bigger. Concerts were free with admission and included a bevy of well-known national acts such as Wiz Khalifa, That Mexican OT, eighties era rockers Tesla, alt act Chevelle, country singer Chris Janson, and the Texican act Los Lonely Boys. Also on hand were Christian rockers We the Kingdom, Michael Salgado, Sublime, Dylan Scott, and Banda el Recodo. The last act closed the fair with a triumphal return to Tucson, where they had not performed for over 12 years.

All acts appeared on the large-scale Budweiser Stage. While general admission was no charge, the fair also offered upgraded $20 concert tickets for reserved seating. The fair held giveaways of the upgraded tickets on its Instagram page. Both the Pima County Fair and RCS presented a lot of interaction with the community with giveaways and updates frequent on social media pages this year.

Of the eclectic musical mix, Rabago relates “Tucson is such a diverse community, and we try and find something for everyone. I think us being able to get a date with Wiz Khalifa was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time… getting a date with That Mexican OT happened because of the relationships built with talent managers over the years.”

Away from the mainstage, musical performers included Red, a Taylor Swift tribute act, and the Salsa Steel Drum Band among others. Fairgoers could also enjoy the antics of the Gascar Pig Races, the feathered beauties of The Bird Show, and experiences such as the Otter Adventure and Sea Lion Splash. Also on hand was Professor Smart's Science Show, a Mobile Dairy Classroom, and the All American Petting Zoo.

There were two major livestock auctions this year, the Large Stock event took place on the fair's final Saturday, featuring steers, hogs, lambs, and goats; the Small Stock auction on the final Sunday presented poultry, pigeons, rabbits, cavies, and pygmy goats.

The final weekend also brought the annual GCPRA Rodeo to the fair on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The rodeo was sponsored by Barrio Brewing Company.

The first Pima County Fair was held in 1911, a year before Arizona even achieved statehood. It's come a long way since then.
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