Crowds gather for opening day of the Santa Cruz County Fair

ABOVE: Jordan Randolph of the Corralitos 4-H Club corrals her Yorkshire cross pig during judging on the opening day of the Santa Cruz County Fair. (Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

WATSONVILLE—The 2018 Santa Cruz County Fair kicked off today, signaling the beginning of five days full of exhibitions, livestock events, entertainment, food, educational activities, carnival rides and more.

Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Freedom Post 1716 conducted a ceremonial gun salute and historical reenactors waved their welcome from atop the balcony of the Rodgers House as crowds flooded into the fairgrounds Wednesday afternoon.

The Santa Cruz County Fair Board held a ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open the event, and dubbed the day “Lynne Grossi Day” in honor of the longtime Agricultural History volunteer who died last February.

Patti Davis, who joined fellow fair volunteers at welcoming visitors into Yesterday’s Farm, said she was excited to work the event.

“I was involved with 4-H when I was younger, so helping out at the fair really feels like giving back,” she said.


Seth Sanders keeps watch on passersby from the comfort of a shady spot on opening day of the 2018 Santa Cruz County Fair. (Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

Livestock shows commenced immediately, with young 4-H members showing off their prized animals to judges. Entertainment began on various stages—and people started up activities in the fair’s many exhibit buildings.

A new addition to this year’s fair experience will be offered by Cabrillo College, which has set up a large area in the JJ Crosetti building for a series of live demonstrations.

Everything from Agricultural Technology to Cyber Security, 3D Printing to Music Technology will be demonstrated throughout the week.

Ivrin Lemus, a Computer and Information Systems instructor at Cabrillo who specializes in Cyber Security, said the fair seemed like a good place for the college to reach out to the community.

“All these things are important for people to know about,” Lemus said. “The fair is a fun event, but you can learn a lot here, too.”

Cabrillo is taking up a sizable section of the Crosetti building, among other educational displays.

“I think it's great, having such a presence here,” said student Jacobs Otto. “We’re getting the word out about what the college offers while also spreading knowledge.”

Otto, who is from the San Luis Obispo area, said it was his first time being at the Santa Cruz County Fair.

“We have a fair back home, but I’m sure each one is different,” he said. “I’m excited to check things out.”


Jacobs Otto (behind table) gifts pairs of sunglasses to kids who spun the prize wheel at Cabrillo College's booth on opening day of the 2018 Santa Cruz County Fair. (Johanna Miller/Register-Pajaronian)

A collection of creatures

Taylor Carothers was standing outside the gates at noon with his fellow fair denizens, greeting visitors as the fair opened. Draped around Carothers’ neck was a six-foot dermal ground boa constrictor, one of 50 reptiles, amphibians and insects that are on display at Brad’s World Reptiles.

Always a popular  attraction, the mini-menagerie returns to the fair this year after a six-year hiatus.

While entertainment hangs high as the reason for the display, at its core is a living lesson about conservation and the importance of the animals in the world, Carothers said.

“It’s good to educate yourself and realize that, yes, there are dangerous snakes, but they are not all monsters,” he said


Taylor Carothers brought a dermal ground boa snake to the opening ceremony of the fair. (Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

Just next door to the reptile display is the West Texas Rattlesnake Show, making its first appearance all the way from Syracuse. N.Y.

Also created with education in mind, the show features several large western diamondback rattlesnakes with self-described snake wrangler Dave Richardson talking about the animals and how to handle them. The finale occurs when a rattler breaks a balloon with its fangs.

“It’s educational, and it’s a thrill,” said Cindy Richardson, Dave’s wife and business manager. “He’s a comic and a showman.”

Each snake has its distinct personality, Richardson said.

Cindy Richardson said her husband is so adept at handling the snakes – which includes taming sessions in which the reptiles get used to his scent and the hook he uses – that he has not been bitten once in 27 years of shows.

“He’s like a snake whisperer,” she said. “The funny thing is that he was terrified of snakes as a kid!”

In the bug barn, visitors can catch a glimpse of stick insects, scorpions, ladybugs and monarch butterflies. Run by students from Renaissance High School, the walk-through exhibit has long been a fan favorite.

It won best exhibit in 2012 from the Western Fairs Association, said Renaissance High Assistant Principal Kim Sakamoto, who was serving as the Bug Barn program director.

Senior Nathan Arjon said he has been studying insects for about a year, although his first passion is physics.

“I’m more of a science person, so this is my field,” he said. “A lot of people are scared of insects, but people should know that they are a major part of our world.”

For more information about the Santa Cruz County Fair, including a full list of events, and to order tickets visit


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