The Ventura County Fair was established in 1874. It is one of the few county fairs in the country located right on the ocean, drawing as many as 300,000 guests over its 12-day calendar of events. As part of a Huffington Post Travel series on state and county fairs, here is our guide to making the Ventura County Fair as fun and rewarding as possible.
The Fair With An Ocean ViewVentura County, located west of Los Angeles County and running to the Pacific Ocean, held its very first fair in 1874 in Pierpont Bluffs. In the beginning, it was a fall fair that drew residents with horse racing and agricultural exhibits. There still are horses -- mostly shown, not raced -- and agriculture, but instead of a mid-October fair, it's now held in August at the Ventura County Fairgrounds on West Harbor Boulevard, in full view of the ocean.
Twelve Days Of FunWith a 12-day span that covers two weekends, the Ventura County Fair has a huge number of events, contests, concerts and special-admission days, starting with the Fair Parade on opening day. According to the Ventura County Star, opening day used to be a countywide holiday in October called Fair Day, when kids had the day off from school to attend. Grandstand entertainment includes motor sports and big-name live musical acts like Three Days Grace, Lifehouse, Pat Benatar, Trace Adkins, the Beach Boys, REO Speedwagon and the Four Tops. With the exception of motor sports, all entertainment is included in the entry price. On the last weekend of the fair, musical guests make way for the PRCA rodeo. Guests are encouraged to bring their own folding chairs.
Excitement Of The MidwayThe midway draws crowds with spectacular ocean views from atop the Ferris wheel and the adrenaline-pumping bungee jump. There are also opportunities to learn about the county's farming community, with livestock shows, agriculture and floriculture. Amateur and professional artists display their work in media ranging from painting and sculpture to photography. There's a popular aquarium exhibit called Fishes & Friends, with more than 60 aquariums on display, and an Ugliest Fish competition. (The 2010 winner -- or loser -- of this contest? The Banded Frontosa.) Those who prefer competitions fueled by brain power should check out the Academic Rodeo, which pits local kids in fourth through eighth grades against each other with quizzes, vocabulary contests and a spelling bee.
Food, Arts And CraftsPopular fair food includes kettle corn, corn dogs and spiral-cut french fries. Food competitions are on deck -- head over to the Home Arts area for the cooking contests, including awards for best cupcake, salsa and burger. The fair also hosts its own Iron Chef competition. There are also competitions in the unlikely arenas of textile and clothing arts and table-setting competitions. There's good theater, too, in the Blessing of the Marriages, where couples married for 40 years or more may renew their vows -- and share their advice for long-lasting love.
AdmissionAdmission to the Ventura County Fair is $12 for guests 13 to 61; $9 for ages 6 to 12 and 62 to 99; and free for children 5 and under and super seniors who are 100 and older. Carnival rides require a separate ticket purchase at the fair or online. Special admission days include Military Appreciation Day (free entry with a military ID), Seniors and Persons with Disabilities Day, Youth Day (free for children 12 and younger), Dollar Day ($1 admission before 3 p.m.), 3 Before 3 Day ($3 admission before 3 p.m.), Ride Wristband Days and a Fair Cares food drive.
Footage of the Ventura County Fair Parade, featuring some 85 groups, including vintage autos, high-school cheerleaders and Shriners in mini cars. Even the Pacific Coast Riderz get in on the action!
What's your favorite Ventura County Fair attraction?
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Photo: Randy Son Of Robert; Flickr