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Entertainment at the Fair a deal but no seat saving
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The Stanislaus County Fair is upon us next week, starting about two weeks sooner than it did last year. Typically the fair wraps around the end of the month and into August but the fair moved its dates up for a July 16-25 run to avoid a conflict with the California State Fair which moved its dates up also.

I always look forward to visiting the County Fair in Turlock. Must-do things on my Fair list are checking out the photography exhibit, looking at all the neat things the FFA and 4-H kids have crafted, checking out the farm animals nesting in sawdust, walking through the putt-putt antique engines and checking out the floriculture and yard exhibits. I occasionally ride some of the rides at the mid-way but am finding I'm just about the oldest person on the ride at the time so that makes things kind of weird.

I always look forward to checking out some of the music acts on the free stage. I've been going to the Stanislaus County Fair since the 1970s and remember the days when the really big acts were in the arena and there was an extra charge. I remember seeing the likes of Johnny Cash, Charlie Daniels, Ronnie Milsap, the Oak Ridge Boys, Mel Tillis and Merle Haggard, but will forever remember my media encounters backstage with Dottie West and Roger Miller and my interviews with Glen Campbell, Charlie Pride and Waylon Jennings.

The fair did away with the grandstand concert concept, using big name entertainers as a general admission draw on the free stage. That's good in one sense, but there's some trade-offs which you need to consider. They fill up faster than the grandstand ever did, of course, because seating is by a first-come, first-served basis. That means, depending on the popularity of the act, you can be sitting there one to two hours before the show starts. That's tough to do, especially when you'll get the urge to get up and walk around and actually see the fair or go buy an ice cream or other food items instead of stake down your place on the bench.

I have the media flyer in front of me which states "Concerts free with Fair admission. Sorry no seat-saving." I know what they are saying here. I have seen one or two people working in tandem with each other who stake out a whole row of benches with blankets and clothing items to defend their bench for hours so that their family, group or church can sit down in front. I understand why they do it, but it's really not a fair practice since the seat is being saved for somebody unable to unwilling to spend the time to plant their fanny on the bench to guarantee their spot.

Typically what you have is a standing crowd that oozes between the food vendor trailers in the front of the arena area, or on the south side where the walkway is located.

The flat show arena can be another drawback, especially if the guy in front of you is 6-foot-2 and you're a 4-foot-5 grandmother and you want to see all of the Beach Boys bopping around on stage. There are jumbotron screens in front like at most concerts to allow you to get the upclose look just in case you're not close enough to see the sweat flying from the entertainers.

It's still an amazing experience and until the fair ever finds the money to improve the arena or expand seating, we have to deal with it the best we can.

The Fair opens Friday, July 16 with the 1970s band WAR (""Why Can't We Be Friends?") on stage, followed by KC & The Sunshine Band taking the stage on Saturday, July 17. Comedian Bill Engvall performs on Sunday, July 18. Christian artist Natalie Grant with Tenth Avenue North perform on Monday, July 19. The Beach Boys (hardly the originals any more), perform Tuesday, July 20. Country act Jack Ingram and Chuck Wicks play on Wednesday, July 21. Boys Like Girls, a pop punk band, on Thursday, July 22, Blake Shelton on Friday, July 23. Terri Clark on Saturday, July 24. Los Tucanes will be sure to draw a Latino audience on Sunday, July 25.

All shows start at 8:30 p.m. but remember to show up early if you really want to catch the acts.

And remember, no seat saving!

How do you feel? Let Jeff by e-mailing him at