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Santa Barbara Fair and Expo Features Dinosaur Flair
Attendance down 3% from 2018 due to cold temperatures
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The 30th annual Santa Barbara Fair and Expo was an event that Fred Flintstone would have loved to attend. The 2019 edition of the fair included the expected racing pigs, thrill rides, and live concerts –and the five-day run which began April 24th had a dinosaur theme this year, and even an entertainment stage named from the Flintstone family’s hometown, “Bedrock.”

Located at the Earl Warren Showgrounds, the event was titled Have a Fun-O-Saurus Time. The reason for the theme selection? According to showgrounds CEO Ben Sprague, it was simple: “Dinosaurs are a fun theme,” he relates.
Among the attractions were realistic, animatronic dinosaurs that wowed attendees. The exhibit building itself, which housed three large figures was re-dubbed “Dino-Town.” Also on hand were arts and crafts, photography, and art work all eligible for awards, showcasing the local art community.

Of course, the fair was not all about giant T-Rex and Stegasauruses, although according to Santa Barbara Fair spokesperson Pat Cary, having dinosaurs as a theme was a big hit. “We had three large dinosaurs in our exhibit building, and one outside which provided great picture backgrounds,” she explains. The figures were perfect for social media postings and wowed the children in attendance.

This year's event also included a bevy of local musical talent, and a popular hypnosis show. The performing hypnotist has performed at the fair before, and as Cary notes “They hypnotist always gets a good crowd.”

Food offerings this year included a wine and beer garden area for those 21 and older, and with local wineries and craft brews available, this area was also a crowd pleaser. Among the most popular foods this year were deep-fried Oreos, but Cary cites other favorites, too. “We had mini-donuts this year for the first time,” she says, and while they were a strong draw, a traditional crowd-pleaser remained in first place. “The funnel cakes are always the most popular,” she enthuses.  

When it comes to attractions, it was hard to beat the popularity of the All Alaskan Racing Pigs. Attendees thrilled to see the small pigs running over tracks and hurdles.

Fairgoers also enjoyed entertainment such as the Dance Unlimited event on the Rock-o-Saurus stage, bronco riding in the rodeo arena, and the petting zoo. Young visitors experience petting zoo animals including goats, alpacas, and bunnies; they also enjoyed interactive farm animal and agriculture displays. Kids could also climb in the saddle of a pony ride.

The midway, supplied by Butler Amusements provided visitors with over 30 rides from kiddie classics to thrill rides and family favorites. The new Mega Flip ride took riders soaring and swinging into the air for a sensation of weightlessness. According to Cary, having a new, first-time at the fair ride was exciting for the fair itself as well for guests. Sprague describes Mega Flip as “a pendulum-style swing” in which riders’ feet swing free while they’re spun in a circle. High off the ground, riders received a grand look at the fairgrounds, too. Mega Flip is manufactured by KMG in the Netherlands.
Among the traditional rides, attendees flocked to the ever-popular Giant Wheel, a 100-foot Chance Wheel, as well as carousel rides, but also enjoyed the Pole Position ride, which takes riders dipping and spinning around a track. Cary says this ride is always a big hit at the Santa Barbara Fairs. Kiddie rides also included the Dragon Wagon Kid Coaster. Butler Amusements has been providing the midway for the fair for years, and offers a cashless midway, allowing fairgoers to use cards from the ticket boxes and kiosks at all rides and games.

In Dino-Town, fairgoers could enjoy exhibitions of community-created paintings and sculpture,  photography, pottery, and crafts; or watch cooking contests.

The Bedrock and Rock-O-Saurus stages featured both musical entertainment dancing, and magic tricks.
Fair admission included a special bonus this year: attendees who kept their Santa Barbara Fair and expo ticket stub can also receive free admission to the Ventura County Fair coming up at the Santa Barbara Fairgrounds later this summer. “We’ve been doing this promotion with the Ventura County Fair for several years now, and it’s a popular one,” Cary attests.

The fair was free for kids under 5; $8 for adults, and $5 for seniors and children over 5. Carnival wristbands were $30; parking $10. Attendance at the event this year hovered at around 49,000 guests, last year and was poised to continue reaching and engaging more attendees for 2019. However, Cary explains that despite the attractive two-fair-admission promo and lively dinosaur theme, “We had really cold weather this year, so attendance was down about 3% from last year.”

The fair advertised with radio, TV, and social media campaigns. With an easy to share slogan of “Have a Fun-o-Saurus Time,” and hash tag of #sbfair, guests could easily share their dinosaur photos and midway fun.
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