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Entertainment at the Fair a deal but no seat saving
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I love summer but the icing on the cake for me has always been looking 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 handiwork crafted by FFA and 4-H kids, seeing the farm animals - invariably there is always a big mama pig and her piglets -nesting in sawdust, viewing the putt-putt antique engines and checking out the floriculture and yard exhibits. Occasionally I will ride rides at the mid-way and watch the people there.

I always look forward to some of the music acts on the Budweiser 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 Johnny and June Cash, Merle Haggard, Larry Gatlin, Charlie Daniels, Ronnie Milsap, Naomi and Wynona Judd, the Oak Ridge Boys, and Mel Tillis, but will forever remember my backstage encounters with Dottie West and Roger Miller and my interviews with Glen Campbell, Charlie Pride and Waylon Jennings inside the backstage RV.

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.

Turlock does draw good current groups such as Hoobastank, Mercy Me, Rebecca St. James and others. Because of its budget it also draws some of the older acts that command less attention today. A few years ago I caught the REO Speedwagon concert that, well, consists of some old gray-haired men who appeared to be the original members and whom my kids had never heard their music. Or the acts that were big names from the past but hardly original such as Foreigner (who played on Saturday night) and the Beach Boys which played a few years ago.

But the free stage disadvantage, to me, is how the seats fill up faster than the line at the all-you-can-eat buffets at dinner time. Because seats are not sold, seating is by a first-come, first-served basis. That means, depending on the popularity of the act, you may 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 beachhead for hours so that their family, friends 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 or unwilling to spend the time to plant their fanny on the bench to guarantee their spot.

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

The flat stage area can be another drawback, especially if the guy in front of you is 6-foot-2 and you're a 4-foot-5 grandmother who wants 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 - yeah, right - to improve the arena or expand seating, we have to deal with it the best we can.

Since starting on Friday, the Fair has seen performances from Sawyer Brown, Foreigner, Kellie Pickler, and the Peking Chinese Acrobats.

It's Wednesday and there are still a lot of good performers to catch. The Wiggles (children's music group) will be on stage. Uncle Kracker performs on Thursday, Bret Michaels on Friday, and country music star LeAnn Rimes on Saturday. Hispanic sensations Diego Verdaguer and Amanda Miguel are performing on Sunday.

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 know at