For Arlen and Susan Peters, attending the Stanislaus County Fair is a tradition that goes back over 30 years to when they took their daughter, Ashley Etchebarne, to take pictures on the ponies as a young girl. This year, the family continued that tradition on opening night of the fair, but it was their grandchildren that got to pose atop the miniature horses this time.
"We've been coming ever since my daughter was a young girl and showing pigs. She's 31 now, and we've been coming every year since then," said Arlen. "We love to look at the animals and the exhibits."
Despite the heat Friday night, families made it out to the fairgrounds for the opening of the 10-day event. June Scott brought her family to the fair to show her relatives, who were visiting from Southern California, exactly what they've been missing out on.
"I'm here to eat!" she exclaimed, pointing to Big Bubba's Bad BBQ. "But we like to check out the exhibit area and the animals, too."
It was the first time at the fair for Linda Hughes, who travelled from Amador County to see country singer LeAnn Rimes perform on the Bud Light Variety Free Stage.
"So far, the thing I've liked best is the pig races," said Hughes. "But, I mostly came for the music."
Hughes wasn't the only one excited to see Rimes perform. Florence Van Kleef of Fremont and Darlene Dodson of Modesto got in line outside of the fair at 3 p.m., waiting hours in the blistering heat all for a chance to sit in the front rows during Rimes' concert.
"Where else are you able to see something like this for $10?" said Dodson. "This brings the community together, and LeAnn is such a wholesome girl to come watch."
"Live music is the best," added Van Kleef. "I don't mind waiting for it."
The pair said they plan to return later in the fair's run to watch other acts.
Where there's a fair there's livestock, and Turlock High School sophomore and FFA member Matthew Reis was preparing to see all of his hard work come to fruition Friday night as he waited to show his heifer, Cersei, in the cattle auction. He expected her to fetch between $2,000 and $3,000, he said.
This year marks Reis' fifth year showing at the fair, and he looks forward to it annually.
"It's nice being in a group like the Turlock FFA," he said. "My favorite part is the comradery every year, and just being with my friends."
While opening night of the fair for many means fun, local Portuguese bullfighting group Forcados Luso-Americanos set out with a goal in mind: raise funds for a local in need, David Delgado.
Delgado was playing in a semi-professional football game in April when he went to make a tackle, breaking his neck and sustaining a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed as a result. This year, in addition to selling oysters at their fair booth, the Forcados Luso-Americanos are accepting donations for Delgado.
Last year, the group was able to raise $3,000 for Bella, who was diagnosed with Child Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Along with funds donated by fairgoers, the group will also give a portion of their oyster proceeds to Delgado and his family.
"We voted and decided we wanted to help him and his family," said Board Member David Magina. "It was a tragic accident and a tragic situation, but it's nice to see people come out and support a good cause."
Lonestar appears on the same time slot on Thursday. Good Charlotte appears Friday and actor-singer Dennis Quaid with the Sharks on Saturday evening. Sunday evening will feature Lupillo Rivera.
The Stanislaus County Fair runs through July 23, and is open from 5 p.m. until midnight weekdays and noon to midnight on Saturday and Sunday. Adult admission is $12, and the price for children ages 7-12 is $5. Children six and under are free. Tickets and ride wristbands can also be purchased online at www.stancofair.com.