Check it out
What: Yolo County Fair
Where: Yolo County Fairgrounds, 1250 E. Gum Ave., Woodland
When: 9 a.m. to midnight, Thursday; 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to midnight Saturday and Sunday
Tickets: Admission is free (There is a fee for demolition derby and carnival rides)
WOODLAND — Across the street from the County Fair Mall in Woodland, the actual Yolo County Fair kicked off its five-day run Wednesday night. The fair, which first opened its gates in 1935, remains the only free gate fair in California.
Upon entering the 55-acre fairgrounds through the back gate, the unmistakable sounds and smells of livestock permeate the area. This is the Future Farmers of America section of the fair.
Bringing a total of 19 animals this year — including goats, pigs, chickens and turkeys — is the Davis High School FFA, whose members brought more than double the number of animals they showed last year.
Clad in their white pants, navy corduroy jacket, dress shirt and blue tie, it’s easy to pick out the FFA members from the casual fair visitors. The lone uniform distinction between FFA members being their names and hometowns stitched on their jackets.
DHS seniors Ashley Brown and Dominique Sommer have been involved in the Davis FFA program since they were sophomores. Last year Brown was the club president, while Sommer is the current leader.
“We get to raise the animals for about three months,” Brown said. “I really enjoy raising hogs because they are like dogs; you can take them out on walks for exercise.”
Leaving the livestock area and heading toward the main fairgrounds, more animal-themed attractions pop up, such as Happy Day Pony Ride and Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs.
Walking deeper into the heart of the action, there are the quintessential fair features like pictures on a keychains, World of Wonders magic show and giant slides. However, it is just on the other side of all the loud distractions of the fair where one of its unique attractions is found on opening night, the eighth annual Yolo County Bounty Gala.
This one-night ticketed event featured a variety of businesses in the Yolo County area. Set in a large tent and also partially outside, businesses from around the area set up shop with free samples along with four bands, who play throughout the evening for entertainment.
“We are the only restaurant that uses our own food from our farm,” said Rhonda Gruska, co-owner of Monticello Seasonal Cuisine next to the Davis Food Co-op. “It’s called, Fiddlers Farm and it’s located in the Capay Valley.”
This agricultural showcase is not for profit; products are brought in for marketing and free of charge. Due to this and the severe drought California is facing, three farmers were not able to attend this year’s event, a telltale sign of the water shortage. Despite some usual participants not being able to share their wares, the Gala continues to grow and highlight local products.
“The first two or three years was strictly wine tasting,” said Gala event coordinator Monique Garcia. “We sold out … so I’m expecting around 500 people and that’s not including all of the sponsors.
“Fairs were started based on agriculture, and we’re trying to bring that back,” said Garcia.
The Bounty Gala stays true to its roots with a large, central display of prized-winning fruits and vegetables. Everything from peppers, figs, giant banana squashes and sunflower heads are judged and awarded ribbons by the Yolo County Fair Agricultural Entries group.
The Gala is not the only salute to agriculture. The fair will transport visitors back in time at the antique tractors and chuggers exhibit with live demonstrations. Old motorcar engines clunk and grind along while interactive water pumps allow children to get a taste of the good ol’ days.
As the sun begins to set and the valley heat begins to dissipate into cool night, live music begins to fill the air. Wednesday night, visitors took in the sounds of Kyle Rowland Blues Band. Thursday’s entertainment features Yolo Idol at 6 p.m. Nickel Slots play Friday at 9 p.m., Col Blood takes the stage at 9 p.m. Saturday and the fair goes retro with Whoville at 8 p.m. Sunday.