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Limited County Fair underway
• Animals, yes, midway rides – nope
Hailey Van Vooren
Hughson FFA member Hailey Van Vooren cared for her fall calf Barney at the Stanislaus County Fair. Her other cow will be sold at auction but she’s taking Barney home to be raised until the 2022 fair. - photo by Jeff Benziger

It’s been a Stanislaus County Fair like no other but certain aspects of it feel as though nothing has changed since the pandemic disrupted life in 2020.

The Fair was cancelled in 2020 but it has returned in a much different form and stretching over a longer time. Missing are carnival rides, headline entertainers, exhibitions of textiles, art, baked goods and other handiwork, and commercial exhibits. But there’s also no admission charge either. Arena events are taking place, however, including the destruction derbies on Friday and Saturday, July 16 and 17 and monster truck shows on Friday, July 23 and 24.

Hundreds of youth from 4-H and FFA clubs throughout the county began showing animals at the Turlock Fairgrounds last week in limited blocks.

At Thursday’s 4-H and FFA Dairy Showmanship, Hughson FFA member Hailey Van Vooren reflected on the changes as she tended to her two cows.

“It’s a little nicer just because instead of waiting 10 days out here and then showing just every couple days you kind of get it all done pretty quick,” said Van Vooren, who joined FFA in 2016 and has participated in five fairs. “So it’s a lot nicer. There’s not as many animals.”

Van Vooren brought her cows in Wednesday and took them out by Monday morning.

She has noticed a decrease in FFA members and animals entered into the fair.

“This year I think there’s about half as many heifers going through the sale so it’s gone down a lot more, just because I think it’s harder for a lot of people to make the accommodation. They probably assume that since it was COVID and stuff that they wouldn’t sell as good at the auction so that’s probably another good reason why they didn’t want to bring their animals.”

Van Vooren said her love for animals kept her going in FFA and entering the fair.

Stanislaus County Fair CEO Matt Cranford said that the fair decided to hold an event unlike the one in 2019 and prior because of the difficulty of planning in an ever-changing situation with state regulations.

“We don’t have the full fair here, but we’ve got enough to make it fun to come out and have a good time,” Cranford said. “Nothing’s been the same for the last year and a half, so you’ve got to ease back into it. Come out, have a good time and you’ll remember what you missed so much about the fair last year and it will get you ready for next year.”

While the fair was able to host virtual livestock shows for agriculture and FFA students last year, this year will see arena shows return to the fairgrounds in an extended format over the course of 21 days. Fewer people will be allowed to view the shows in order to promote social distancing. 

Cranford said it’s nice to be moving forward with one of the county’s biggest events which drew 260,000 to Turlock the last time it was held in 2019. This year’s event is to keep the fair financially stable, he said, so that it can return in full force next year.

“Last year was probably my single hardest year professionally,” said Cranford, a Ceres native. “We work year-round to have a county fair, and to be told you can’t do it makes it tough. Now, we have some light at the end of the tunnel.” 

Modesto residents Carlie Martinho and Leila Laurenzo came to the fair last week to get a sense of normalcy again, they said, after missing out on the event last year.

“It was unexpected, and it was a little bit weird not to be here having fun at the fair,” Martinho said.

“It’s better this year,” Laurenzo said. “I wish there were rides, but I still think it’s good.”

 The Stanislaus County Fair will highlight food at the premiere Fair Food Bites event. As part of the Fair’s Summer of Fun Arena Series presented by Coors Light, Fair Food Bites will have free admission and be open to the public each of the three weekends in July: last weekend, and the weekends of July 16-18, and July 23-25. 

Food will be served in a walk-up format. Attendees may purchase food to-go, or enjoy it with family and friends at picnic tables. Fair Food Bites stations will be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays. Free parking is available for all in the north parking Lot off of Soderquist Road or North Broadway.

This year’s featured vendors include Duggan’s Kettle Corn, Funnel Cake Express, PHD & Me Pretzels, Country Fair Cinnamon Rolls, ICEE,  Funnel Cake Express selling cheesecake funnel cake and fried Oreos and Twinkies. Almond toffee pretzels and pizza pretzel will be sold by PHD & Me Pretzels. Country Fair Cinnamon Rolls will offer their Bacon Bomb, a delectable cinnamon roll topped with bacon and maple syrup. 

Food vendors include VFW Auxiliary with double cheeseburgers and fries; Space Age selling corn dogs curly fries, corn, a Polish sausage sandwich and baked potatoes; and Jeanne’s Artichokes selling fried artichokes, veggies, and French fries. 

Thus far the fair has held its poultry, bulls, heifers, milk cows, cavy, turkeys, rabbit and dairy goats Junior Livestock exhibition and junior dog Small Show Schedule.

Animal schedules are as follows:

• Thursday, July 15 – 4-H and FFA Market Swine, starting at 7 a.m.; 4-H and FFA Market Beef starting at 10 a.m.; beef showmanship, starting at 5 p.m.

• Friday, July 16 – Market Swine Showmanship, starting at 8 a.m.; Breeding Beef, Cow/Calf, Bull Heifer, starting at 9 a.m.

• Monday, July 19 – Breeding Meat Goats and Breeding Meat Goat Showmanship, starting at 1 p.m.

• Tuesday, July 20 – Breeding Sheep, Wether Dams/Ewes and Ewe Futurity Breeding Sheep Showmanship starting at 12 noon.

• Thursday, July 22 – 4-H and FFA Market Sheep, starting at 9 a.m.; and Market Goat Showmanship starting at 3 p.m.

• Friday, July 23 –4-H and FFA Market Goat, starting at 9 a.m.; and Market Sheep Showmanship, starting at 3 p.m.

Upcoming Junior livestock auctions are as follows:

Market Beef: The 57th Market Beef Sale will take place at 7 p.m. on Friday,  July 16 in the Barn 4 Show Ring. Market Beef animals will be available to bid on in-person only in the B-4 Show Ring.

Market Swine: The 57th Annual JLA Market Swine Sale will be at 9 a.m. on Saturday, July 17 in the Thurman Pavilion. The Market Swine Sale will be in-person and streamed online.

Market Goat & Market Sheep: The 57th Annual JLA Market Goat and Market Sheep Sale will start at 9 a.m. on Saturday, July 24 in the Thurman Pavilion. Like the Market Swine Sale, this sale will be in-person and streamed online.

Whether it’s in-person, streaming or virtual, you can participate in each auction. For more information, visit the Livestock Auction page at or contact Kassi Sieber-Laughlin at or call 668-1333, Ext: 330.

While visitors to the fair likely won’t see the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department’s Mounted Unit and their horses on scene this year, Sheriff Jeff Dirkse assured the public that his deputies are still on hand to keep patrons safe. Dirkse said it’s been exciting to see the community out and about at different events again, including the fair, after a year and a half of social distancing.

“This is just that iconic summer event for Stanislaus County — and many counties — but we need to get back out there, remember what it is we do and what we like about Stanislaus County and our home,” Dirkse said.

Jody Overcash of Hickman and Tina Tablock of Salida said they’d been waiting months to enjoy a cold beer at the tractor pulls again, and were finally able to do so on Friday evening. To that, they had just one thing to say: “Cheers!”

The Stanislaus County Fair will run from July 9-11, July 16-18 and July 23-25 this year. The Fair Food Bites stations will be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays. Free parking is available for all patrons in the North Parking Lot off of Soderquist Road or North Broadway. 

Tickets for arena events can be purchased online at

Angelina Martin contributed to this article.

Anthony Olivera 4-H
First-year Chatom 4-H member Anthony Olivera pensively held the rein on his cow as 4-H instructor Sandy Williamson groomed the animal just before Thursday’s showmanship at the Stanislaus County Fair. - photo by Jeff Benziger